Soanso's Fireside Chat: Rise of the Runelords (AE)

soanso

First Post
Almost there

My eyes opened as divine light coursed through my body. C offered a hand, and helped me rise. I could tell from the faces of my companions I was lucky to stand again. We were upstairs in the keep’s left tower. Morning broke over the Nettlewood’s twisted canopy.

Mundin spat on the ground. “Ya may be pretty, ya may be brave, and ya may be pretty brazen, child, but yer also pretty tough. That was a swipe that would’a ended many young dwarf’s lives.”

I looked at Shaiira, wondering what she thought, after my many lectures on even-handedness and cool-heads-prevailing. She shook her head and smiled. “You’re a fool to come back,” she said.

I grinned at PopPop’s favorite welcoming to the hunters, and that she knew it, too.

“I lost my voice,” I said.

C clasped my shoulder. “All in stride, Siv. Sometimes the fire makes us.”

“OK, which way now?” Vohoi said. The sorcerer was correct, it was time to press forward. Noria had kept last watch, and reported nothing new afoot in the keep. We returned to the dungeon.

We noted that upon passing Orrick’s room, his body was missing. We found no drag marks or further signs of struggle. Odd.

The next door opened to a modest bedchamber, with a sitting chair and a desk. I found more notes in Tsuto’s handwriting, some detailing the attack on Sandpoint we helped defend, some with vague plans for future attacks, and a litany of scornful, hateful passages in what could only be the scrawling of a half-mad man. These haphazard entries depicted a man swallowed by anger, railing against his sister and father especially, and against Sandpoint; yet again singing the praise of Nualia. Knowing what I do now about Tsuto, I was sad to read these notes. I decided to take them to Ameiko; if nothing, it would give her a chance to lay to peace to what has been a difficult chapter in her life.

Another room was evidently the War Room, with detailed maps of Sandpoint and surrounding areas spread across it. One tattered note revealed some future attack, to be executed once the “whispering beast was tamed.” This coincided with what we already knew and met, the quasit and sinspawn beneath Sandpoint. I took this beast to be the last unmet enemy, Malfeshnekor. Who or what it is remained a mystery.
Unmet by foes, we continued on at our leisure, finally coming to a room where a human woman was examining an unusual staff on a long table. Several chunks of rock also lay on the table, and she was surprised to have visitors.

“Who are you?” she asked sharply.
“Um, Brethazmus sent us,” I said.
“To make sure you were all set over here,” Noria added.
“Shaiira sidled up and smiled. “Oh it’s good to meet you, uh, wow, I’m sorry I’m new here and I already forgot your name.”
“Lyrie. And I’m, ah, yeah, I’m good,” she said, stiffening.
“I see you are researching something,” I said. “Ancient Thassilon is a hobby of mine. What are you looking for?” I could see the chunks of stone were etched with runes.
The woman was overtly annoyed and suspicious of us. “Dwarves? I don’t think so,” she said, blasting Vohoi with a quick magic missile. We fell to arms as she vanished from sight, but being a small room, we quickly cornered her.
She re-appeared, her hands in the air. “Don’t kill me!” she shouted.

“Why not?” Mundin snarled. “Being mixed up with the evil here, we best chop you down now.”
“Let her speak,” Noria said.
“Aye.” My voice had weight, and I wanted to see where the paladin was going with this.
“Who do you work for?” Noria asked.
“I am just a researcher, an archaeologist. Nualia hired me to explore these ruins. I harbor no ill will, I swear,” the woman said. I saw her eyes and believed her.

“Ya work for the primest of evil here and wanna leave unscathed?” Mundin said, his hand moving to his axe. She was afraid, I used my voice.
“What will you give us in exchange for your life?” I asked.
I have no ties, I swear. Here,” she said, turning out her pack and pockets. “It’s all yours, just let me live.” A pretty pile of coin and a few scrolls now littered the table. Noria looked at me, I looked at Mundin. He looked at C, who looked at me. I looked at Noria. She closed her eyes for a brief moment.

“Go,” she said. “Never come back, this place will be gone.”

The woman bowed and scampered past us, her feet finally climbing the stairs.
Caramour moved to inspect the staff that lay on the table. It flickered with a grey flame as he approached.
“ ‘Tis yours,” Vohoi said. “Such a piece will complement your arsenal.”
“A sturdier walking stick,” C said, grasping the quarterstaff. “Thanks.”
“You’ll find it suits your fits,” Vohoi added. “The weapon channels your energy.”

We gathered the explorer’s wealth and moved on.
 

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soanso

First Post
Back in the saddle, again

We retraced our steps to the tentamort’s lair, where horror met us; several desiccated corpses, including birds, Orrick, an unknown goblin and the strange hounds lay in macabre silence, as a strong ocean wind billowed the vine-and-nettle curtain sequestering the cave from the waves below. Wandering sometimes brings luck, if Desna is watching. We crept through the room.

“Found it!” whispered Shaiira as her fingers followed a near-invisible seam in the stonework. She manipulated the stone to open a hidden hatch in the wall, which led to a set of stairs descending into the inky dark.


“This stonework is ancient,” Mundin said as we descended the well-carved staircase. “Likely dwarven work. Note the precise cuts in the granite on each step, uniform.” I nodded, trusting his senses.


Frescoes were defaced by hammer and chisel; likely Lyrie’s handiwork. A hooded lantern hung by a nail on the wall, so I grabbed it. Illuminated by the glow were four statues of exquisite artistry. Identical to every detail, a man, certainly a human, holding a book in one hand with a sihedron carved onto the cover and a glaive in the other.


The similarity of his accoutrements did not escape any of us, though the man himself was a mystery. We decided to approach the rest of the dungeon cautiously, should some rune-aided adversary come round the bend. I was elated- this was the stuff of my youth, prancing about broken tors and forgotten graveyards with PopPop, him prattling off stories of this and that, me pretending that I was my mother, a flashy sword and a lewd word for my imaginary foes. But to the truth, it was the history of the moment, now, that brought me current. Everything I knew is lost, everything I find is new; it is my task to connect yesterday to now. I focused on the statues, but could not bring to light their significance.

We traversed the short hallway to another small alcove. Two statues similar to the previous sat buffeting the hall in recesses, another stood several feet ahead of us. Shaiira was first to traverse the polished floor; her usually nimble feet set off a trap, and a pair of portcullis crashed down on either side of her.

Vohoi noticed a strange carving on the statues as they animated and slashed at my sister with their wicked glaives. “The Rune of Greed!” he shouted as he prepared to cast a spell.


Trapped between the gates, Shaiira lost a lot of blood. “I ain’t one to leave a wing man in the dust,” Mundin said as he heaved open the portcullis closest to us. Following the dwarf I quickly swept my sister from further harm. C restored her, and we continued on, wary of the floor trap.


As we padded down the corridor and took the appropriate left-hand turn, I fell into my own mind. What am I now? Once I was a daughter, then a ward, now an orphan. Suddenly and as quickly I was a sister. I was a child, then an adult. The songs, the gestures, the culture of my lost family, the Farateldi vivacity bursts from my seams and not by my choice but from something else. History courses through my veins. I am nothing, really; I am without property, honor, grace, or title, yet I am. I am alive, I exist, I am something that is the sum of many beautiful things, and many terrible things all at once. But I am. I exist, and I feel no pull to be something else. Perhaps I am lucky, maybe Desna smiles on me each day. Remorse and guilt hold court in my head daily; yet I have obligations. People rely on me and my abilities, much as they did before, in my past life. There are stories to write, songs to sing, odes to be found among the blood, fire, steel, and darkness. Why not meet the challenge of tomorrow?


A door stood closed to us, and Shaiira opened it. The room before us was some sort of chapel. Frescoes of hideous monsters ravishing humans and other races, scenes of destruction, madness, even cannibalism assaulted us from the walls. The room was lit by humanoid skulls ensorcelled to glow a disquieting red, and a low basin of roiling, foul-smelling liquid stood in the corner.


“The farcking quasit,” Mundin heaved the words into the doorway as he followed them. Indeed, the quasit flitted about as another strange hound growled low, and a beautiful aasimar woman, with a face twisted by madness and a deformed hand, ending in a weird claw, raised her sword at our approach.


Nualia. I grinned, knowing we had found the source of Sandpoint’s woes. Swords and axes clashed against defenses and spells flamed the room. Noria dipped into her divine reserve to attack Nualia, while Mundin followed with a tremendous clamor of axes. Vohoi used flaming sphere to attack the enemy. C and Shaiira danced into and out of the battle, positioning and repositioning themselves to maximize the group’s attacks. I sang Mother’s Lament, a new piece I had recently written, to inspire my friend’s alacrity and effectiveness. The hound fell quickly as Nualia and the quasit held their ground.


Then the quasit blinked out, invisible to the naked eye. I realized my grave error- I should have read Grandy Vin’s magic book and not relied on a week of dreams for my spells. Despite this failure, I decided to use my voice against my foes; though the quasit remained aloof, I dropped Nualia with a potent chord of shards.


“The door!” Caramour shouted. Vohoi moved to shut it and read a scroll to see invisible subjects, but the quasit was nowhere to be seen. We gathered up the scant valuables in the room, including an amulet that pulsed with power. Vohoi, C, and I collaborated to discover the sihedron medallion was a powerful magic item that could protect its wearer with necromantic magic. I also found a pile of notes on a desk that should bring to light Nualia’s fall from grace.


We stood over the body, a long silence between us as we each gathered ourselves and reflected on our journey. My thoughts traveled to Shaiira. Would she come with me after this? Sandpoint was a lovely little town, but I yearned for the open road.


“There is one last piece to the puzzle,” Shaiira said, raising her head and adjusting her scarf.

“Malfeshnekor,” Mundin said. Indeed, the beast referenced in Tsuto’s notes, and hinted at in the goblin drawings at Thistletop; some sort of terrible, four-legged beast with lupine features and a vaguely goblinoid visage.


We headed deeper into the dungeon, finding a hallway that ended in a large pile of coins, all ridged with tiny spikes and a sihedron rune carved into the wall behind it. Sadly, C found the pile was illusory, and something about it rankled me, but we moved on. Across the way, two beys-relief skeletons joined their outstretched arms over a doorway, a single skull clutched by the pair over the door. We entered cautiously and found the room contained four standing sarcophagi, each featuring a man holding a book emblazoned with the sihedron rune and a glaive. He was different from the previous statues, and these crypt lids were of high quality. We were attacked by invisible foes that drained our strength with their withering touch; Vohoi and C combined forces to drive the shadows from this place. We chose to rest, passing the evening without incident.


Whether it was morning or midnight mattered not, this far from fresh air. I had reservations about pressing on; the illusory pile of coins still bothered me.


“Well, let’s see about your hunch,” Noria said. We returned to the spot, and I closely examined the wall with Shaiira’s help.

“Aha!” I shouted as my fingers traced the outlines of two horizontal slots hidden in the stonework.
“Okay, but now what?” Shaiira asked, puzzled. I stood staring at the slots, my mind turning over before an idea flashed through the fog. Vohoi had identified the runes on the portcullis-statue as those of Greed. The illusory pile of gold, of course! I quickly pulled two sovereigns from my purse, and inserted them both into the adjacent slots.
“Desna guide you,” I whispered, punching the coins into the wall; the wall slide away to reveal a secret alcove with three doors; we chose the left one first.


Opening the door revealed a barren room, austere but for the raised dais supporting a marbled throne. In it a man sat slumped, flanked by two familiar statues. The man on the throne was an obvious illusion, as he repeated the same scattered and static phrases in the ancient Thassilonian tongue- “…is upon us, but I command you remain. Witness my power, how Alaznist’s petty wrath is but a flash compared to my strength. Take my final work to your graves, and let its memory be the last thing you…”


Though puzzled, we decided it must be some sort of remotely controlled device, quickly becoming a theme in these Runelord dungeons. We noted the uttering of Alaznist, the Runelord of Wrath discovered beneath Sandpoint. The fact that it malfunctioned was welcome news.


The second room was an archaic torture chamber. Macabre devices lined the walls, and several gruesome tables occupied the center of the room. C wandered towards a table of ancient surgical implements; among them he found a silver- inlaid gold sihedron instrument that looked like it was either a key or some other focus. C swept up the tools and I pocketed the rune-key-thing, neither of us with a question to the other.

“Locked,” Shaiira said, examining the final door in the secret room. I produced the fancy key, as it seemed more likely than not the logical solution.


Lo, the lock tumbled. We entered a room lit primarily by a long pit of flickering fire that filled the room with a strange, humid heat and the smell of burning hair. In the northern corners of the room, wooden risers held several dozen golden candles that burned without melting; the southern wall bore an immense carving of the seven-pointed star.


Occupying the room was a quadruped beast, its forelegs more like hands than paws. Its fur was matted as it rose like a dog from the fire, a foul green tongue licking its thin pink lips in anticipation. Lupine in stature, it was still bigger than a typical wolf. Its head was less canine than goblinoid. Most terrifying was the intelligent glean in its eyes; this was no simple predator- in fact, it was a killing machine.


“Desna save us,” Shaiira muttered.


I heard the dwarves rustle in their armor to my right. Ominous.


Malfeshnekor struck with deadly precision, knocking Shaiira prone as we fell to battle. Noria channeled her faith to strike the beast true as Mundin followed suit with his axes. The confined space gave us little room to move, but Shaiira managed a precision hit as C kept the fighters alive. I sang The Thistletop Dirge, another new piece to keep my friends’ momentum forward.


The beast tore through our defenses, yet we fought on. Vohoi cast flaming sphere and was able to finally quell the beast. No doubt it was a great barghest, a foul beast fed the souls of many an innocent and decent person, until its power erupted into a killing machine; the perfect complement in Nualia’s plan for revenge.

Plans all for naught. Despite the quasit’s escape, we had wrecked the evil hierarchy surrounding Sandpoint; all that was left was a dividing of the spoils and a farewell meal. Traveling had taught me one truism- birds go with the seasons. As do sellswords, healers, and dwarves, and Farateldis. I was glad to meet these folk, and gain what I did from our adventures. Perhaps I will meet them again.
We rode through the lowlands, Thistletop a smoking eye on the Varisian landscape. I wished for nothing but the Rusty Dragon and a drink, a bath, a hot meal, and a farewell. A brief stay to settle my claim on the treasure we found, perhaps find a better suit of armor for the road. Tomorrow night I will leave Sandpoint for the open road, Shaiira or not.


We decided it best to tie up loose ends before parting ways. After a simple lunch of trussed sage hens, cornflower biscuits and honey mead we made our way around town, selling off the spoils of war, eventually meeting with Belor Hemlock. We owed at least a parting handshake and a debriefing to the good sheriff of Sandpoint.

Hemlock was excited to hear our account, noting the details in his blotter.

“So, if there’s nothing else,” I said, bowing low and retreating to the door.

“Ah, well, there is, well, no, never mind,” Belor floated. My eyes lowered as I felt fish swarm to the sheriff’s bait. “So you say,” Mundin cautiously provided. “A patrol found a few known con-men killed in a barn south of here,” Balor said. “Murdered, actually. The bodies were pretty ripped up, missing jaws and were defaced with some sorta weird star carving. Was a note pinned to one of the victims-” Belor opened a drawer and retrieved a calfskin folder, and gently unwound the twine holding it closed. He presented a parchment speckled with dried blood.

Belor leveled his eyes at me. “It mentions you,” he said, handing me the gory note.


‘Sivoulette - You will learn to love me, desire me in time as she did. Give yourself to the Pack and it shall all end. – Your Lordship’


Shock. My mother flashed before my eyes and gooseflesh rose on my arms. I felt nauseous and wavy. Shaiira gripped a shoulder, Vohoi the other. Deputy Guber then burst into the office, disregarding our presence. “Sheriff, another pair of victims at the mill-“ his faucet was shut off by Belor’s stony gaze.
“Let’s see the mill first,” I said.


“Agreed,” C consented. As I followed Belor to the mill, I felt the ground swell with feet behind me. I smiled, terrified.
 

soanso

First Post
Thanks for hanging on! A quick real-life intrusion on Soanso's Fireside Chat.

Soanso here, playing Sivoulette (Siv) the bard, our narrator.

Siv is completely competent in her abilities, but completely unsure about her life choices. She has seen her family killed at the hands of giants. She has seen her mother's grave in Sandpoint, and then met her half-elf half-sister shortly thereafter. As a spectator, she was drawn in with a rag-tag group of like-minded suicidally-prone individuals when goblins fire-bombed Sandpoint. facing many pivotal moments, she has once and again treated her companions as family, fighting alongside them for what is right; the freedom of Sandpoint from evil. The party has jelled, especially adding Noria as a second big hitter. With the addition of the pally, the bard and rogue could dial down their melee chances to focus better on their class niches.

The Party is about 4-5th level:

Mundin, Dwarf two-axe fighter
Noria, Dwarf Paladin of Sarenrae
Shaiira, half-elf rogue
Caramour, 'C' to his mates, cleric of The Free Hand (Good)
Vohoi, electric sorcerer
Sivoulette (Siv) bard

Sunday/Monday expect another post to get us current!

- Soanso
 

soanso

First Post
Whoa, I missed a small detail that jars the narrative. At the beginning of this last installment, a few sentences are missing. for clarity:

[We crept through the room.]

"We decided there was no new threat in the seaside cave nor anything significant to gain from the macabre scene aside from a suit of magic hide armor on the goblin corpse, and headed back to the room where we met the scholar. After a thorough search, Shaiira and I outlined a secret door."

["Got it!"...]
 

soanso

First Post
Tangled Threads

“What was that?” I asked as we made our way to the sawmill. I was just behind Gomer and Belor, who were talking in hushed tones. At my back C, Shaiira, Mundin, Vohoi and Noria kept pace. The open road will wait, she always does.

“Again please, Sheriff? If we are to help I’ll need to know why you two whisper so.” I had heard them plainly, but hearing and knowing are two sides of one coin. Best hold both sides, PopPop would say. “What of this ‘late unpleasantness’?”


I watched the men exchange muted glances as their tongues slowed.


“I can turn round and simply ask my fans at the Dragon,” I offered. A few days past my arrival at the Rusty Dragon, I had taken to entertaining late night patrons by the fireside with the tales of my youth, of Varisian folktales, and of myths older than Varisia itself. In turn, I’d gleaned some favors and information from them.


“There hasn’t been such a disturbance in Sandpoint since then,” Belor replied. “An eccentric woodcarver by name of Jervis Stoot turned out to be a serial killer.”

“Time was,” Gomer said, “Folks wanted one of his bird-carvings on their house. But you didn’t ask, he chose ya.” We passed several blocks in silence; I noticed a few such intricate birds in gables and atop flagpoles. I had wondered their history.
“It was a dark time, one we wish to never relive,” he finished. I believed the young lieutenant.
“How far is the barn where the men were murdered?” asked Noria.
“Not even a half day,” the sheriff replied. “A man named Grayst Sevilla was found wandering the roads north of the barn,” he said. “My men found him incoherent, and turned him in to Erin Habe, the fellow that keeps a sanitarium south of here. Was rambling about an end of times and…” Belor’s voice drifted off.
“And what?” I asked.
“He’s a witness to the barn murders.” Something did not sit well with me.

As we approached the sawmill, a man was standing outside with a few militia. We assumed the authority granted us by the town.
“It’s, oh, it’s… Bannie’s dead, destroyed, really. His girl, Vinder’s girl, she’s… she’s there too,” the thin man said.
“I’m sorry,” Shaiira said, “But who in the stars are you?” My sister is not much for pleasantries.
“Um, Ibor Thorn, I have a stake in this mill, here. Bannie was my partner, the low bastard. Mr. Scarnetti’s gonna flip.”
“Why?” asked Vohoi.
“Bannie’s lady, she was a shiny diamond, cost him a lot to keep her temper, but I din’t do it!” Ibor seemed genuine enough, though a bit tipsy for midmorn.
“Do what?” I asked.
“That, I… you’ll see, you’ll see if ya go in. I din’t do that. I coun’nt… it’s… He was stealin’ though, I’ll tell ya that. Ah poor sot… Shounna been like this, no sir. Not, no, no… go in an’ see, it’s… horrible.” His remorse seemed genuine. We left Ibor with the militia and headed into the mill. “Sheriff,” I said as low as I could, “Send some men to Ibor’s house, just to keep an eye on it. If there’s fraud, this might be a frame.” I said. The sheriff agreed and dispatched a pair of guards to Thorn’s property.

We passed through the small reception office into the mill proper.
“Do ya smell that? Reminds me of a troll fart,” Mundin said, wrinkling his nose.
“Aye, worse than a bound hobgoblin stuffed with head cheese and left to rot atop a tor,” Noria countered.

Sometimes the Common tongue is a plague on the senses. But it was true; we all noted the stench of rotten meat wafting through the air.

“Can’t be the bodies,” C noted as we slowly made our way to the back end of the building.
“Agreed, too fresh,” said Vohoi.

The mill was impressive in its size. I’d never been inside one; the machinery of conveyor belts and jagged saws, the sluices where timber flowed to them and the wicked hooks to pick up massive logs and drop them at the top of the operation, all were impressive. A large set of doors opened to the pier. Our attention was drawn to a grisly scene near a set of large gears that turned the saw blades.

There, in a pool of blood on the floor, lay the body of what must have been Bannie Harker. His face was gone, revealing the gore and gristle of bone and cartilage beneath; his lower jaw was removed, and his shirt was torn away, a sihedron scarred into his chest. Kitrina Vinder, his lover, was worse off; her body was crushed and wound into the huge gears of the mill, nearly unrecognizable save her telltale polished patent leather red shoes.

Punctuating the scene was a bloodied axe, its handle slick with gore, slammed into the topside of a scrivener’s desk.
We searched the works, finding a bloody set of footprints leading out the doors to the pier. We decided first to search the second floor offices. In one we found a desk drawer with a false bottom. In the hidden compartment was a set of thin ledgers identical to the set on the shelves above the desk; a quick glance through the last few entries seemed to confirm Thorn’s suspicions- Bannie Harker was cooking the books. C noticed the smell of carrion around the window of the office, perhaps the vile intruder entered through this window.

“Some type of corporeal undead,” Caramour pronounced, “but it would need to be very skilled to come through the water and scale the building.”
We tracked the bloody footprints to the end of the pier, and then found a similar set on the far bank, one going in and one coming out, but we lost the trail from there. We told Gomer to let Belor know we were headed to the barn and then the sanitarium.

There wasn’t much to see at the barn, though searching through the refuse therein produced a note addressed to Mortwell, Hask, and Tabe, inviting the men to meet at the barn at night to discuss a deal involving gold and property. As I read the note aloud, my heart dropped into my boots.

“What is it?” Shaiira asked, “You’ve gone pale.”
“It is signed by ‘Your Lordship,’” I said, “Same as the other one.”

We made our way to the sanitarium as the afternoon wore on. A three story stone building sat on a low hill before us. There was a short porch. I knocked and an older man answered the door.
“Erin Habe, I assume?” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “What can I do for you, oh, there are many of you,” he said, noting my companions.
“We are looking for a man brought here by the sheriff’s men, his name is Grayst Sevilla, I believe. We need to take him into custody.”
“I’m sorry to say that he’s being… treated and cannot leave my care,” Habe said.
“Could we just talk to him here?” I asked.
“You will not be leaving I take it?” Habe replied.
“Nope,” said Mundin as he casually inspected one of his axes with his index finger.

Habe sighed heavily. “All right, but please be quick about it, he needs treatment.” We followed Habe inside, and he led us to a room with a table and chairs. Closed wooden doors to the right and in front of us led deeper into the sanitarium.
Two rough-looking tieflings brought a man into the room, unbound.

“He is ill,” C said, and he focused a wave of healing energy through the room, but the man’s pale, gangrenous skin did not improve. His milky white eyes were very disturbing.

“Did he come to you in this condition?” Noria asked.
“Uh, oh yes, yes he did,” Habe stammered.

The man was softly babbling. “Knives, too many teeth… Razors. Razors! The skinsaw man is coming… too many teeth…”

“Mr. Sevilla, we need to ask you about the barn,” I said. His head whipped towards my direction and a maniacal smile spread his cracked lips, revealing shattered, jagged teeth and a sickly purple tongue. He spoke, his gravelly voice jumping with excitement.

“He said. He said you would visit me. His Lordship. The one that unmade me said so. He has a place for you. A precious place. I’m so jealous. He has a message for you. He made me remember it. I hope I haven’t forgotten. The master wouldn’t approve if I forgot. Let me see… let… me… see…”

His rotten brow furrowed for a moment before he shrieked excitedly- “He said that if you came to his Misgivings, that if you joined his Pack, he would end his harvest in your honor!”

“His Misgivings?” Mundin said.
“That’s the name the locals use when referring to Foxglove Manor,” Vohoi said. “Rumor is it’s haunted.”
“Do you think Aldern is involved somehow?” Shaiira asked me.
“I don’t know. He headed back to Magnimar a few days ago. I know he mentioned his family was nobility from near here, but he never mentioned anything like that.”
“Can ya blame him?” Mundin said.
“No, but now I wonder-”
“Listen, I need to get the patient back to his room, he needs treatment,” Habe interrupted.
“We need him,” Noria said. “He’s important to our investigation.” Shaiira and Mundin bound Sevilla, who did not resist, and was back to his low, insane ranting.

Habe became visibly nervous and shouted, “Listen, I need to get him back, now! Before-”
The door across the room opened and an aged man holding a staff bellowed, “Habe what is taking so long?” A foul odor seeped from the stairs behind the man, and several humanoids followed him up the stairs. “What are you doing with the subject?” he asked.

As the zombies burst into the room, their master cast a spell that intensified the odor and filled the room. The tiefling next to Caramour attacked while Habe screamed and fled the room through the other door. The dwarves made quick work of the zombies and the necromancer; C dropped one orderly. As the cloud dissipated, the remaining orderly held up his hands, surrendering.

I found Habe in the next room, presumably his office, cowering beneath the desk. “I surrender! It’s not what you think!” he shrieked.
I escorted Habe to the next room, where C was administering aid to the fallen orderly. Habe explained that the necromancer paid him to rent the basement for experiments. Since he needed the money, Habe turned a blind eye to the man and his business. He gave us permission to inspect the necromancer’s quarters. “Take it all, I don’t care,” Habe said.

We inspected the rest of the property, finding three other residents- a very, very old man who paid us no mind, a farmer named Sedge who was covered in scars and was eyeless, and a wererat named Pidgit Turgelsen, a Korvosan who was obsessed with knives.
We concentrated our efforts on diagnosing Sevilla. We determined he was suffering from ghoul fever, and decided to end his suffering and save Varisia from another potent evil. We decided to make the journey back to Sandpoint rather than spend a night at Habe’s Sanitarium.
 

soanso

First Post
The Hambley Place

We rode through the early evening, arriving at the Rusty Dragon after dinner. Ameiko was indisposed, so Bethanna greeted us, treating our tired bodies to a charcuterie board and day-old bread, sherry and a dry Korvosan red that paired well with the cured meats and oils that served as our repast. We supped and turned in, exhausted from the day.

Morning brought a lead-gray sky and a steady drizzle. And Belor. After breakfast, he greeted us in the Great Room of the inn, an old, wiry man in tow.

“Greetings, Heroes!” the sheriff bellowed across the room. Pinned down by his greeting, we awkwardly stood to greet him. “I’ve got someone with a story you’ll find interesting,” he said as he approached. The thin man removed his wide-brimmed leather hat and bowed low. His thin hair was iron-gray and his brown eyes told stories of hardship, toil, and loss.

“Livin’ scarecrows!” he shouted. “Plain as the dawn! They jus’ get up offa them posts and start movin’ about! Quick an’ vicious- been attackin’ folks at th’ crossroads!”

“Shh! Shh! Calm down!” I shouted back before quieting my own voice. If the few patrons in the Great Room were listening, they didn’t appear to be phased by the man’s ranting. “Where are your fallow fields?” I asked.

“South, of course,” he said. “Jep Clambett’s the name, too. Clambett’s Farm along the Soggy River, but these abom’nishins been seen spread all over the heartland. They stalk the night, takin’ folks that’re out for a stroll, even breakin’ down doors, devouring folks in they sleep. Especially odd is Hambley’s place. We get some survivors up our way, or those just gettin’ out for fearin’ the worst, but nobody’s come across Hambley or his kin. They say that even the crows avoid his crops.”

We sat briefly with Jep and Belor, mapping the homesteads of the lowlands. We decided to travel the quickest path to the Hambley homestead, but to stop at farms along the way for clues or to encourage the families to seek refuge at the Clambett’s Farm.

We traveled the roads through the fertile lowlands, finding a few recently abandoned farms; Desna guide them. As we approached another crossroads, a scarecrow was nailed to a post across the way. We paused, and it fought its way off the post and lunged forward to attack. Mundin and Noria quickly ended the threat. Removing the mask revealed the scarecrow was not a golem, as we first suspected- it was far worse. The dreaded visage of a ghoul lay beneath the mask. Knowing how quickly this fever could cripple a populace, we increased our vigilance.

Approaching another crossroads, we spied another scarecrow trussed to a pole several yards ahead.

“It moves,” Noria said, peering into the distance.
“It dies,” I said, fitting a bolt into my crossbow. I fired twice before it ceased. Upon removing the burlap mask, I was horrified to see the face of a young man, the scant beginnings of a beard on his jowls.
“His eyes,” C said, pointing to the milky white orbs. Perhaps a man, perhaps a monster. We moved on.

Another scarecrow stood across the road. Noria approached it and dismantled it; though it was just burlap, straw, and old flannel, we all felt better for it. Something wicked this way stalks.

We approached the Hambley place in the afternoon. The two-story farmhouse was flanked by a large barn; its most noticeable feature was that the wooden walls of the barn were built around and incorporated a statue depicting a huge Thassilonian-like head.

“Is it a Runelord?” Shaiira asked.
“Nay, this is the face of a Thassilonian warrior,” Vohoi said. The twelve-foot high visage was covered in moss, and was nondescript in its workmanship. I trusted Vohoi’s scholarship.

The dwarves opened the barn doors, and a half-dozen bodies fell upon us like starving ghouls- because they were. We hacked and slashed at them, eventually dropping them all; but worse for the wear.

“Are you feeling fine?” C asked Mundin.
“Pfft, never better,” the dwarf answered. “Let’s go!”

I stayed close enough to C and Noria. They whispered about Mundin’s glassy eyes; they fear the ghoul fever. I decided I’d keep an eye on him, too. We couldn’t afford to lose a key member of the team to the disease. Should things turn for the worse, I decided, a saving finale was in order.

It was time to investigate the Hambley house. As we approached the front porch, a portly ghoul threw open the front door; he was missing his left ear.

He extended a gnarled figure in my direction, and through a hoarse chuckle he shouted, “He was right! You came, I am so surprised!”

I drew my rapier as the ghoul moved- so fast it was if his feet didn’t touch the ground for traction. His claws extended and with his nasty ghoul-tongue protruding, my rapier found a soft spot and he paused, briefly, as black blood pooled at my feet. Then his claws, and his bite.

I was paralyzed.

I watched Noria’s axe glow with hot white light as she moved in and struck him down. Shaiira found an intricate amulet around his neck, a key, really. I recognized it as the Foxglove family symbol, a rose blossom surrounded by thorns.

Everything was a din then. I couldn’t concentrate, had trouble standing, and felt an unnatural rage build in my heart. I saw a stern look from Noria, and my heart dropped; yet I felt a foul hunger within me. I was infected, too. I took a moment to grapple air into my body, to regain control of myself. I was sick, but there was a cure. Zantus could help us. Maybe.

We moved into the house. The front room was slick with blood and gore, and the mutilated body of a man lay in the center. Face removed, jaw stolen, and a sihedron rune clawed into his chest; most likely Hambley himself. Why? The rest of the house was a museum of its residents. They likely perished as ghouls by our hand.

We traveled back to Sandpoint and met Father Zantus; his healing grace removed our afflictions. During our short rest I sequestered myself. In my room, I sat at the desk and penned a letter to Aldern. When I finished, I felt as if it could be all for naught. Something gnawed at my heart, pulling me back from the sudden swoon I found myself indulging. Was I falling for a troubled noble? Was I ready to let down my guard to save a man whose life might be in danger? I crumpled the letter into a ball and tossed it into the fireplace. I tried again. My hand trembled as I slid the note into an envelope and sealed it with red wax. I found a merchant headed out to Magnimar, and gave him a few sovereigns to deliver the note to Aldern’s townhouse . The note simply read, “Be safe, dear Aldern. I must visit the Misgivings soon. I hope to meet you in Magnimar when the storm has passed.” I felt relieved and stupid, both at once.

The next day, we traveled south again to revisit the Hambley place. Our route took us to the safe-house, where many families of the northern farms found refuge during the Ghoul Plague. As we approached Hambley’s farm, where we were met by several scarecrow-ghouls. We made quick work of our foes behind Vohoi’s spells. We found several victims pinned down to become ghouls and gave them grace. Other scarecrows were simply dismantled. We then turned our attention to the Misgivings.
 

soanso

First Post
The Misgivings, pt 1

“I heard tales that she burned down the servants quarters in a fit of rage,” Shaiira said as we rode towards the coast. We rode single file and maintained a good trotting pace; the full moon lit the road for us. There was a small breeze in the autumn air. It was neither chilly nor refreshing. I was the last in line, Vohoi before me. I promised him over wine he’d never be last.

“She being who exactly?” I asked.

“I think the grandmother, but I’m not sure,” Shaiira said.

“The Misgivings are said to be a haunted place. Legends say ghostly music can be heard coming from the front room on moonlit nights,” Vohoi offered, his eyes trained on the horizon splashed with waning sunlight.

“So Foxglove Manor is indeed the Misgivings?” I said. The words left me before I could check them. A brief, cloying coldness touched my lower back. I tried to remain calm, but there was something amiss. I already knew that- or at least I thought I did. I felt confused, so I listened.

“How did you come to meet Aldern Foxglove?” Noria asked. We trotted at a fair pace, and her question rose above the hoof-beats, as steady and forward as they. I knew the dwarf meant no offense; their kith is less prey to irrational speech as mine.

“He approached me,” I said. “Well, actually, his dog did. When we all first met, during the Swallowtail Festival, that was the goblin attack. I heard the sound of the wounded dog, and Aldern was his master. We saved his life by killing the goblins-” I faltered at killing, such a detested word. “And he held a feast in our honor; we struck up a conversation and visited each other over the next few days. He gave us these mounts, and to me he gifted this exquisite crossbow-”

“All for a night in silk, eh?” Mundin chimed. I could not fault the dwarf for his opinion; in fact, everyone’s opinion.

“Nay, Mundin, I did not succumb to his charms, for I am saving myself for you,” I said, barely containing the lilting laughter in my throat.

Shaiira burst out laughing. “You owe me coin!” she said in Mundin’s direction. I cocked my head, curious. “Is there a wager on my scruples?”
Mundin laughed. “Yours and the cleric’s,” he said. “Just a friendly bet among thieves, worry not, dear songstress.”

I laughed too. “Sorry to have lost your wager, Mundin. Perhaps I’ll be luckier next turn. What’s the next wager?”

We bantered about several seedy situations, involving some or all of us found in precarious and morally questionable circumstances, passing the road quickly beneath our feet. As we rounded the last long bend, however, frivolity fell to stark silence. Perched like a dying bird upon a withered branch sat Foxglove Manor- The Misgivings. The three-story manse loomed over the path, balanced upon a precipice above the ocean. Nature itself was twisted here- gnarled trees, sickly brown grass, and a complete absence of life save a few crows circling the burnt-out perimeter of what must have once been a building. A circular stone well stood to one side of the low, charred stone half-wall that must have once supported a building. My skin crawled.

“Do you hear them?” Shaiira asked, focused on me.
“Hear what?”

“The screaming maddening cacophony rising from the burning house?” Her face was odd, her gaze transfixed on the manor. “Terror, do you hear the terror? The piano, Mum wouldn’t ever let this happen.” Her eyes were dull, her hands limp. She never spoke of Mum in front of the others, only to me, in private.

“Mum’s dead, she’s back at the Boneyard in Sandpoint,” I said.

“No. No. You never said so,” Shaiira’s head shook back and forth in denial, as if it were disjointed from her neck. I looked to the others, but no one seemed to notice her odd countenance. Noria slid her axe off her back. We approached the manor under cover of night, though the Traveler’s Moon kept us in light.

I peered into the front room. Mold encased nearly every surface. Once a fine parlor, even the grand piano suffered the curse of time. We moved to the front door. Shaiira was acting oddly, and refused to pick the lock.

“It’s locked,” I said, trying the handle of the door. My hand slid to my pocket, and drew the strange key from it. Of course, the Foxglove symbol! The tumblers of the lock fell into place and the great door swung open- we walked unabashed into the Misgivings.

Shaiira stopped at the threshold.
“We need you now, Sis,” I said.
Shaiira stood like a statue. “The screaming. The birds. The music. Mum says ‘No’…” she trailed into listlessness. Something is very wrong here.
 

soanso

First Post
Hands out for a friend

Hey all! Soanso keeping the updates as best I can. For those of you following this Journal, first of all thanks. I also want to take a moment to bring to light a real tragedy that has impacted our little gaming group here at home. One of our players lost his home and all his belongings to a fire three weeks ago. He and his 14 year-old son lost everything, from computers to socks to Magic cards, hand-painted minis and rulebooks, modules and food and so much more. The local response has been amazing, and I'd like to take a minute to share his plight.

It's cold in Maine come winter. If you have a spare 5, 10, 20 bucks to donate to the cause, it's going to help put food on the table, fuel in the furnace, and give a good person a chance to recover from a debilitating loss. Here is a link to a GoFundMe page for Pete and Jayden- if you can, please donate. And please feel free to use this thread to send words of support to Pete and Jayden as they work hard every day to rebuild their lives. Blessings to you all.

http://www.gofundme.com/57jv3k
 

soanso

First Post
the Misgivings, pt 2

Greetings, Stranger, from a Stranger.

Aye, there is little joy tonight; this chilling tale is too unbelievable to be real, but we have seen, heard, felt and lived it through our own real eyes, ears, and hearts. Terror is palatable, and Evil is real. What I can retell is here; I stand by the tales as any Farateldi would.

Shaiira refused to enter the manor, quaking in the dooryard. The heavy scent of mold and decaying vegetation wafted through the open doorway. The rest of us made our way inside; rot and mold were pervasive throughout. Slick black smears, bright orange pillowy tufts, stagnant green mossy swatches, purple-and-pink-flecked growths, and sickly blue mushrooms held the house together.

We passed through a trophy room dominated by a manticore standing at full attack on a center table; other less identifiable trophies moldered on the walls and in alcoves.

We made our way into what was once a parlor- the room with the grand piano I had scouted from the outside. I followed the dwarves into the room and immediately the room lit up, and a lively party replaced the rotten fixtures of the room. Guests in dated finery mingled and laughed, and a halfling sprinkled the keys of the piano with mirth. I was grabbed from behind and twirled about as the halfling played a waltz I recognized but could not name. I felt awash in the high times, and relaxed as my partner twirled me across the parquet. I turned to see my partner, and her face drove an icy pick through my heart.

It was Mum.

My mother twirled me across the floor. But her eyes were wrong, they were dull grey orbs devoid of life. I noticed a purplish bruise across her neck, and she danced faster, and faster, and faster-

I passed out.

My eyes opened to a panting Mundin standing over me. We were back in the hallway.

“What happened?” I asked, shaking confusion from my head and standing.
“Dunno. Ye passed the threshold there and sorta went whirlin’ and flyin’ about the room,” Mundin said. I heard a nervous twitch in his voice. “I dove in to grab ye and pull ya out, seemed you were in a bad place.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“What was it?” Noria asked.
“My mother,” I said. “She is here.” I knew this meant less to my friends than to me or my sister. Until now, I had given only small hints towards my real purpose in Sandpoint- tracking down my mother. At first, she had died. That is how I came to meet my half-sister, Shaiira. I later found out she was alive, but hadn’t yet counseled my sister. But that is another tale.
“How so?” asked Vohoi.
“‘twas she that spun me round,” I said. “But never mind, we are here for another purpose.”

Exactly like a nightmare, the rest of the night was a maddened jumble of guttural emotion and raw terror that defied any logic.

A room on the first floor with windows overlooking the sea. I entered first, determined to discover why my mother was trapped here, haunting this terrible place. I was drawn to the seascape, lovely as it was in the falling daylight. Whitecaps piled on each other as children do upon themselves when the leaves fall from trees in the squares of small towns and are piled up before a bonfire. There was a gentle cadence in the sea foam, a jaunty reverie that whispered to me of a time long lost to memory. A firm hand grasped my right shoulder; my left hand moved to my scabbard as I spun to face the interloper.

It was Mundin, a scattered look spread across his face. He was in the grip of something surreal. His hand tightened on my shoulder; he is a strong, young dwarf and I reflexively dropped to a knee to counter or escape whatever was next.
Then his eyes returned, and he gazed at me, confused. He shook his head free of something I could not see. His hand eased from me.

“OK?” I asked.
“Uh, right as stone,” he said. I noted a small quiver in his voice. Whatever he had seen, he had survived it and I was grateful.

A trophy room. Several moldering carapaces adorned the space, which was dominated by a large manticore trophy. Truly impressive. Vohoi refused to approach it.

Stained glass windows were a main feature throughout the house. Their iconography was familiar but I could not place it. Even Vohoi had a hard time with it. C would have nothing to do with the windows at all, bristling whenever either of us approached him for advice. It was odd for him to act so.

We came to another room scattered with memories. What first drew my eye was Mother’s scarf. I recognized it instantly; the intricate embroidery and vibrant reds hid beneath the cloth wicked blades that, if wielded properly, proved deadly. I never did master the technique, but my sister did.

She now skulked behind us, unhelpful and unobtrusive in our efforts.

I entered the room. Beyond the moldy trappings of a sitting-room, an unscathed book sat leaves down on the floor, and a stone bookend shaped like an angel with butterfly wings was toppled to the floor. I noted the remains of blood, bone, and hair on its base. I left it to rest on the floor and went to retrieve the scarf.

The cloth whipped up into the air and wound itself around my neck. Suddenly, Aldern Foxglove appeared from thin air, his eyes bulging, his skin a sickly mottled gray, his hands firmly in charge of each end of Mum’s scarf, wound around my neck.

The dance. Mum. The markings on her neck. Aldern! My husband! My children! My children?

Like a sleeper saddled to a bad dream, I threw myself from the haunting. Aldern was not my husband, I had no children. Disoriented, C and Noria helped me to my feet. The room came back to view. Mundin picked up the scarf, giving me a quizzical look.

“I… it’s a long story, I think,” stammered back. The dwarf nodded solemnly. He carefully wrapped the scarf and slid it into his pack.
A strange glyph on the floor. It was as if someone had painted an intricate spiral staircase descending from the bird’s-eye view of the mural. We passed by gingerly.

“Do you hear that?” Caramour asked as we passed a set of stairs ascending into the haunted mansion. No one did. “It’s a child’s voice, it is scared-” C said as he prepared to bound up the flight. Noria’s firm grasp on his forearm stayed the cleric. “First floor is first,” she said. Noria exhibited a confidence that shook my own initial fears away.

We passed through the macabre trophy room again; Vohoi shrieked and threw his arms up. We saw nothing. “The flames, the face! It’s alive!” he shouted. He reached to his spell component pouch to prepare an eldritch blast, until he realized none of us took up arms, but gazed at him, confused.

The sorcerer chuckled. “Ah, ‘tis the tricks of the mind. Very well, friends. I trust it is you and not the beast I should follow.” He described a woman’s face appearing on the manticore’s, and it coming to life and breathing fire on him.

Second floor. Whispers, moving shadows, and a too-bright moon spilling through the stained-glass windows. The waves crashed in a violent cacophony below the manor. Near the burnt-out ruin, a murder of crows began to gather.

A room of portraits. Whispers. Mold caked the picture frames, walls, floor and ceiling.
“I hear the child,” C said again. “She needs us.”
One wall displayed three portraits, singly of a man, a woman, and a young girl all wearing an older style of noble blue couture. C was drawn to the young girl’s portrait, studying it intensely.

The other wall displayed five portraits. A tall, thin man, a portly woman, and three children- two girls and a boy, younger than his siblings. I recognized the boy at once; a child’s eyes do not lie. He was Aldern Foxglove.

“She is the manticore!” Vohoi said, pointing to the mother of three. The whispered voices grew louder, and we all took notice.
I was compelled to wipe the grime from the nameplates beneath each portrait. The older set was Vorel, the father; Kasanda, the mother; and Lorey, their daughter.

The younger Foxgloves were Traver, the father; Cyralie, his wife, and their children Aldern, Sendeli, and Zeeva. I recalled Aldern speaking of Foxglove Manor as his father’s “labor of love lost,” and that a tragic accident had burned the servants’ quarters to the ground and that his father was nearly ruined by the effort. Shortly after that incident, Aldern was sent to live with relatives in Magnimar. My heart beat blood for him. I hoped to see him again to embrace his rise above such treacherous ground. I prayed to Desna to keep him strong in such times.

The audible popping sounds emanating from some of the portraits turned me to the source, and I watched Vohoi’s face as it was plastered by thick green mold. He wiped it away, but was immediately struck by some sort of fungal virus.

“I’m OK,” he said, smiling with confidence. “Not that I intend to, but if I bloom into a mushroom, carry on, I’ve had my fun.” With a wink, Vohoi always relished the last word.
 

soanso

First Post
The Misgivings, pt 3

[Long time gone- Life is funny like that. Back to retell the adventures of the Heroes of Sandpoint!]

“I hear her voice, too,” Shaiira said, as she wandered to a door on the second floor. It led to what must have once been a child’s room, but the horror within was nearly too much. My sister refused to enter; I looked in to see scarred furniture, pillows and bedding torn apart as if by knives or claws, and the heavy stench of deathly rot. A child’s bed was overturned, and a small dresser stood broken in one corner, drawers splintered and their contents strewn and rotting across the room. The whole place was covered in a sick blue mold.

I stepped in to investigate. My head instantly throbbed and my feet gave way beneath me, as I saw my mother, brandishing a torch, defending me from some monster. Once a man, his cyst-riddled face was something from a nightmare. He wielded a wicked dagger, slashing up the wallpaper, furniture, and floor as he tried to kill me.


He tried to kill me.


“Comin’ up to help ya, lass,” Mundin said, and I felt his strong arm at my elbow. As I started to stand, he released his grip. Swimming in confusion, drowning like a pup in a rill, I again turned and reached for the dwarf, who was oblivious to my peril. His eyes were fixed on the child’s bed, and then a flash of sickly blue light tore through the room.


“What is that on your face, Mommy?”
The child’s voice had crackled like thunder. Mundin’s skin erupted with horrible boils and cysts, the same type that plagued my haunted vision upon entering the room.


“It burns, the words, HER words, they burn, scrape it OFF!” the dwarf shouted as he clawed at his face, tearing strips of skin from his visage. I watched, horrified, unable to help.


C and Noria pulled us from our nightmare; the cleric cast a spell to heal Mundin’s weeping sores. The dwarf refused to move for a few minutes, visibly shaking. I pressed my hand to his shoulder.


Another room, again destroyed by violence. Knife and teeth marks marred every surface. Noria and I entered. The haunts here have targeted me; no doubt a response to my mother and her, I loathe to say, involvement with Aldern. Too much is unknown; Shaiira lingers as just a shadow. She rarely speaks or acts. Her eyes are not her own. If she is bewitched, I cannot tell.


The room was cold and some of the stained glass windows were shattered, overlooking the surf below. One wall held a portrait, but the subject was turned to the wall. Whispers swirled in the air, quiet at first but growing louder with each passing moment, becoming a jumbled cacophony of violent whispers cutting through the air- why. why, why, why? The question crashed in my head, the sounds of the waves below and the spectral chant drew me more than once to approach the intact windows, a strange progression of an old man seemingly getting older.


I heard Noria’s axe-blade leave its sheath and whirled around to help face the danger; but it was she.


“Why?” Her voice was like gravel on chalkboard, not her usual tone. She held her blade to my jugular. Her eyes were milky white, her pupils filmed over by some terrible curse.


A voice not mine found me. I was compelled to open my mouth, and I felt the air exit my lungs as the voice spoke.


What did you get into in the damp below?



Noria held her axe as close to my life as I never wish it to be again.


Reflexively I pointed to the painting turned backwards on the wall. From the corner of my eye, I saw Shaiira dart into the room. Her eyes seemed less wild, she saw my motion. My sister turned the painting around.


It was Mum.


Noria’s hand faltered, and I dropped to the ground, rolled away and drew my rapier, and pointed it at the paladin. Her axe fell, and her eyes lost their milky coating as she slowly gained cognizance of her surroundings. Shaiira slinked off down the hall.


I had to. I wiped the mold from the nameplate to discover the portrait’s identity.


Iesha Foxglove.


To me she was Iesha Farateldi, my mother, Mum. Until now. Now, she was something else.

*
“Evil rules this house,” Caramour said. “These windows, they are all necromantic symbols. They entail degrees of supreme undeath, the path to lichdom.”


“Tis Vorel,” Shaiira said. “He rules this house.” Her voice sounded canned, as if she were a marionette played by another. Finding a set of stairs leading to the uppermost level of the Misgivings, we ascended, Noria leading the way. I decided to hang back, and asked Vohoi and C what they thought about Shaiira’s odd behavior.


“She seems normal to me,” Vohoi said. “And I think she’s right about Vorel- the windows’ images are similar to the painting we saw earlier. Are you sore because she deciphered it before you did?”


My ears burned, and that surprised me.


“Have you not noticed the slinking about, her vacant eyes, her inability to engage in conversation?” I countered.


“Shaiira is herself, from what I see,” said C. “Are you sure you are alright? There seems to be deep scars here that you cannot abide. I can see the sorrow in your soul. Forgive me if I pry, but it is a fair observation.”


Caramour was correct. Every minute trapped within these walls brought a screaming subconscious alive that I did not know existed. Something tried at every turn to push me out, suppress me, cause me pain so that I would leave. Something breathed a single word into my inner ear with each step I took; but I could not forgive myself if I acquiesced.


Escape.



I would, but not without my family. I steeled myself for the third floor.
 

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