Chapter Twelve, Part Five
To Melias, the framed drawing of the keep matches what he’s seen. He notes directions are given on the map. The front door of the keep faces south and the back door faces north.
When he walks into the dining room, SeLiem notices one of the high-backed dining room chairs in the corner has a deep hole in one of the front legs. It seems out of place in such a pristine environment. He also notices each of those three chairs have stains on the seat cushions, although none of the others do.
The kitchen smells of rotten food and old spices. Claire rubs her nose and sniffs. The tiled floor and walls are dirty. The room holds a stove, a fireplace, a large round table, two built-in preparation tables, and a basin. Five freshly half-eaten apples sit atop the round table. There is a smaller connected room near the south-east corner which holds the door to the hallway and another door directly across from it. That space is empty. Pausing, Claire hears nothing and shortly she is searching for valuables.
SeLiem casts a Cure Serious Wounds spell on Melias, then inspects the chairs. He believes the stains to be blood and red wine (two things Clerics are very familiar with). On closer inspection, he finds more traces of blood on the legs of the three chairs. All of the stains are very old. Looking around the room, he sees no obvious items which could have made the hole. Since SeLiem is kneeling to check the chair, he notices something about the table. The sides have trim that comes down almost to where the person sittings knees would be, but the end doesn’t. He can’t see the head of the table from his current angle to be able to tell if it does.
Arianna quickly searches the areas already not checked – the shelves and sconces and walls. She doesn’t find anything unusual or of obvious value.
The only point of attack in the kitchen is from either of the two doors in the connected space, so Kafeera stands there. She hears skittering, perhaps mice, originating from beyond the door to the north. That door is not as sturdy looking as the other doors the party has seen here. It is obviously an inside door. The door to the south, she and others have already ran through, when they were chasing the Troll. She knows that one leads to a hallway and to the entryway.
Deathwish isn’t sure what to do, but he follows Claire’s lead and searches the kitchen. It is noisy business and all they find are stirring spoons, rotten food, buggy spices, wooden bowls, pots and pans.
Rastorn watches them search and takes a look at the apples on the round table. “No fine china or silver utensils? I guess they could have taken it with them,” he comments, as he picks up one of the apples. “But, if they took the silver and china, why wouldn’t they take the paintings and other household items?” He tosses the apple in the air and catches it. “I can’t imagine The Eight taking it, since at least one of them can claim ownership over the keep. This was Backus Taber’s old home. Adviser Stetic lived here at one time, too.” He smells the apple. “It doesn’t make sense to steal from yourself.” He stares at the apple. “Trolls don’t eat fruit,” he whispers to himself. His eyes widen and he waves to Kafeera, whispering, “This apple has been freshly eaten . . . and there are five of them!”
“Which means what, exactly?” Claire asks in a bored tone, sticking her head around the doorjamb.
Kafeera understands Rastorn completely. Five freshly eaten apples means there are five warm bodies somewhere nearby. She whispers back to Rastorn, “Could they be hiding in plain sight, do you think? My father’s pupils were good for such cowardess!” She looks about suspiciously.
Rastorn points to the door next to Kafeera and puts his finger to his lips. He waves her closer to him and whispers, “Just in case, why don’t you swing that big weapon of yours around the kitchen to see if you strike any invisible enemies. I’ll be ready to zap them if you find any. He looks at a nearby cupboard and adds, “I’ve got another idea to help us spot them, too.” He points back at the door and says, “If there isn’t any invisible foes in here they could very well be behind that door, but we should wait, because by the time we’ve searched this room for them, the Elves will be here and they can back you up when you search behind the door.” He grabs a container of wormy flour and begins sprinkling it onto the floor in a thin layer all around the kitchen.
Melias notices SeLiem’s attention drawn to the table. “Did you find something, my friend?” he asks. “Hmmm, yes, I see, there is a difference as you so point out. I wonder what it means? Let’s take a closer look.”
Claire, having bored herself and her bodyguard with fruitless searching, looks in again. “What in the name of all that is publicly exposed is going on here?” she asks, standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
The table is too large for Melias to move on his own, but SeLiem is able to help him flip it onto its side. He spots something unusual underneath at the assumed head. A scabbard has been nailed onto the bottom of the table with the hilt of the sword facing where the middle of the three seats would be. There is a short sword with an ornate handle inside the scabbard. There is also a crossbow bolted onto the bottom of the table next to the sword. It is on a swivel and designed so whoever sat in the middle seat could easily shoot anyone at the far end of the table without them even being aware a weapon was pointed at them. The crossbow is of extremely high quality and is easily detached. It is loaded, but holds no additional ammunition. Looking at the bolt in the crossbow, Melias realizes that it is the same width as the hole in the chair SeLiem found in the corner.
Melias eyes the crossbow and the short sword and quickly dismisses any thought of them being trapped. He simply removes them. The blade of the sword has runes on it and the balance of the weapon is impeccable. The crossbow seems lighter than expected and has extremely fluid bolt action.
SeLiem sees Arianna leave to go searching on her own. Everyone else is too busy to notice. He doesn’t say anything.
“Ooh! Is that repeating?” Claire asks, her eyes lighting up. “If not, could I at least have the ammunition?”
Arianna enters the hallway and goes straight to the door on the left. The door is open a crack, so she doesn’t need to break it open. She pushes the door open and peers inside. There is a shattered mirror straight across on the opposite wall, a closet that takes up an eighth of the left wall, a heavily chained treasure chest in the north-east corner, and piles of Troll droppings all around. A small pile of electrum pieces lay in the middle of the room.
Claire’s eyes light up further as she steps closer and sees the crossbow, although not repeating, is better than her own. “Does anyone want that?” she asks, her avaricious nature coming through.
Deathwish notices Arianna entering the room in the hallway and follows her. “Hey! Treasure!” he yells and rushes in after her.
This draws Claire’s attention for a moment. She smirks and shakes her head, happy he’s her understudy and not Percy’s. One Percy is quite enough for her.
“I suspect it’s magical, based on it’s low weight alone. Any normal crossbow of this calibre would probably be twice as heavy.” He glances around and realizes no one could use the crossbow to the benefit of the group more than Claire, so he strips out the bolt and tosses the crossbow to her. “No more ammunition. Just this one bolt,” he says and throws it to her as well. He asks the group, “Can anyone stand to use a new short sword?” He prys the scabbard from the table. Stepping back with the blade still in his hand, he observes the table. “Meetings took place here, perhaps to settle grievances – though not always so peacefully as evidenced by that notch SeLiem found on the chair leg. Perhaps the master of the house sat in the spot bearing such offensive precautions. Seems like something my family would be prone to do. Debate until either you win or the opponent falls dead – whichever comes first.” He looks around the room and notices they are two short. “Where’s Bonehead and Art- Arianna?”
“I found something!” Arianna yells out. “A chest with chains and a lot of Troll shit!” She leaves the room, knowing what it holds. If it were trapped she knew that was best for either Melias or a spell-caster to deal with. She moves down the hallway to the next door. She picks the last door on the left and checks the handle and finds that it is unlocked. Pushing it open, she discovers the room is a library or study. Books are on the floor and on shelves on the left wall. She notes a four-drawer desk in the middle of the floor, a portly couch in the north-east corner, and some bric-a-brac shelves on the east wall. There is an odd sound emanating from somewhere in the room. Arianna mocks the sound, “Munch, munch.”
SeLiem had followed her and also peers into the messy room.
Convinced there isn’t anyone in the kitchen, Rastorn walks to the dining room to recruit assistance. “Melias, could you, Claire, and Bonehead help us check out what’s behind the last door in the kitchen? There are sounds coming from it and we found clues that someone is in there.”
Kafeera stands ready at the last door in the kitchen, waiting for Rastorn and any recruits for the search behind the last door. She readies her halberd, not certain when she should wave it around to search for invisible beings. When Melias, SeLiem, and Rastorn arrive, she says, ” Wait, I too have an idea.” She reaches into a pouch and pulls forth a handful of a white powdery substance. The powder in one hand and halberd in the other she says, “Open the door Pepper and pull it back, it will provide you cover.”
Melias lifts an eyebrow and says, “So, there’s an obvious threat behind this door and Arianna and Bonehead went somewhere else? Don’t we have enough trouble to worry about without inviting all of the house dwellers to come attack us from all sides?” He takes a deep breath and assists Kafeera with her plan.
SeLiem quickly checks the door for traps, but doesn’t see any.
“Alright there, Mister Iflander, can you sense evil or danger from here? It sounds like something is eating something else. Can you give me a clue what that is or are we just going to head in blindly?” Arianna asks her two-handed sword, as she prepares to enter the study.
Meanwhile, Melias opens the door in the kitchen, Kafeera tosses flour into the room, and Rastorn uses the door as cover, while peeking out, so he can cast if he sees an enemy.
The room is a small laundry, with a hall to the far left going straight north and a doorway on the wall to the right. The laundry holds only a metal tub, an open-top barrel for heating water, and washing implements. The room to the right is very small and holds only firewood and an ax for wood chopping. The small hall leads to a mud room and the back door of the mansion. Directly across from the back door (on the south wall of the mud room) is the doorway to the pantry. Mice scatter when the party approaches. The pantry holds what is left of food that has been left out for years. Many shelves are empty, so it is assumed some food was taken when the mansion was vacated.
Peeking into the pantry, Melias spots a half-sized secret door hidden in the middle of the east wall. No one else in the group can see it.
Still in the kitchen preparing her crossbow, Claire hears a cat meow. She believes it is coming from near the front door.
Iflander tells Arianna, “I sense no great evil in that room. The sound is most likely Bookworms chewing up the books. They are not dangerous to people, but they can eat a full spell book in half an hour. I appreciate your sense of independence, Arturus. Going off on your own when things get too boring and structured is something I certainly understand. However, you may not want to get too far away from your friends.”
Kafeera spots something strange behind Rastorn. For just a moment, she saw a partial outline of something in the air. The flour she had been tossing about had collected on some smallish creature or item for just a second, before it was shaken off.
“Hey everybody, there’s a secret door over there!” Melias shouts. He leans in as SeLiem says something to him, “Ah, you don’t say, not trapped means safe to me. Let’s go check it out.”
Arianna moves into the library/study and begins searching.
Kafeera does her best to act as if she did not see the oddity in the air then says,”Hmph, must’ve been the rats we heard, Rastorn.”
Hearing her call him by name gives Rastorn a minor inkling that something is wrong for she has yet to call him anything but Pepper.
She looks at him. holding his gaze for a long moment, hoping he understands her silent need for his attention.
Upon gaining his undivided attention, she looks up toward where the oddity was previously without moving her head. She mutters, “Told ya it wasn’t anything. Lords above you’d jump at your own shadow wouldn’t ya! Damn Mages are all the same.” She strolls near Melias and complains about the pesky rats, then whispers, “Company.” She shouts to the rest of the party, “I think it best we do not wander far from one another just yet! One never knows what could be lurking above! Besides, someone’s gotta hold the Mage’s hand!”
“Did anyone else hear a cat meow?” Claire asks, moving toward the noise and ignoring Kafeera.
Arianna is startled by a sound to his left. An entire row of books on one shelf tumbled over and now lay flat. All the paper was eaten from them and all that is left is the covers. She loosens her grip on Iflander and kneels down to get a look at the desk. Each drawer is locked. Glancing at the shelves on the walls, she sees nothing of value. The only thing that stands out on the shelves is a huge, pink sea shell.
Rastorn has caught on to Kafeera’s hints and helps her to secretly spread the word. Soon, Kafeera is flinging more powder although she isn’t sure what it used to be in the air. This time, Melias and SeLiem also spot the creature floating over Rastorn’s shoulder, but it does a good job of staying just far enough behind the Mage for him not to see it. It quickly shakes the powder off, but it is coated long enough for Melias and Kafeera to make out that it is some sort of invisible tiny bat or bug.
No one else hears the cat, but Claire hears it once more as she reaches the front entrance. She believes it is in the closet.
Deathwish walks up to the shelves and begins to take books out and put them back where they were, looking for a secret passage. He decides to wait for someone to detect traps on the seashell before touching it. “If that thing’s safe, I’ve got dibs on it!” he tells Arianna.
She shakes her head and returns her attention to the four locked desk drawers.
Claire, meanwhile, crossbow at the ready, knocks on the closet door once, sharply. “I’d really like some help with this cat right now,” she calls.
With the drawers locked and nothing but the shell being of any interest, Arianna tosses the shell to Deathwish and goes to find Claire and help her with the cat. She knows the group will thoroughly check the room later and all she was doing was searching for any monsters that lurk in the dark. “Claire, where are you at?” Arianna calls standing in front of the library’s door.
“Front hall, Arianna,” Claire yells back. “No one else seems to hear the damn thing, so I thought it’d be best if I had some backup.”
Arianna makes her way to Claire and drops to her knee in front of the door and listens for any noise.
Catching a glimpse of the bat-like creature floating about, Melias says, “What the hell is that?” It dawns on him that it could be a messenger for his sister. Drawing his longsword, he keeps the shortsword in his left hand and attacks blindly in the air about Rastorn’s head. “Careful Rastorn – it’s right behind you!” Unfortunately, he had also ignored Kafeera’s warning.
After setting the seashell down, Deathwish discovers one uneaten page that had fallen out of a book and the inside cover of another book has a page glued to it. All the other books were only covers, except one. That one is false and when he pulls on it the shelf opens out to reveal a hidden space, but the space is empty.
While listening at the closet door, Arianna hears what sounds like a very small creature scratching at the other side.
In the kitchen, Melias swings at the invisible creature, but fails to connect with anything.
Rastorn places his hands on his head and crouches down with his eyes closed.
Arianna looks up at Claire and says, “I hear it as well. Sounds like a cat.” She crouches as if ready to pounce. “If you want to open the door, I’ll catch it.”
“Sure,” Claire says and opens the door wide, before moving her hand to lift and aim her crossbow.
SeLiem backs away. “What in the Nine Hells?” He attacks the invisible creature with his hammer.
Kafeera snaps,”Obviously subtlety is not within your vocabulary. You dolts are gonna lop off his head!” She moves to close off any exits hoping to prevent the creature from escaping and shouts,”Show yourself and we shall be merciful!”
The closet door is swung wide open to reveal a fluffy, thin, gray kitten. It is startled and stands rigid, staring with wild, frightened eyes at Arianna.
Rastorn crawls along the floor as weapons are swung all around him. SeLiem misses the invisible creature with his weapon, but Kafeera, who’s senses have been honed for opponents such as this, connects solidly. She is not certain how badly she injured the creature, but everyone heard the thud when she hit.
Rastorn looks around and points down on the floor beside him, “Quick, hit it again! I’ve never seen such a creature, so there is no telling what it is capable of!” He is pointing at nothing. Kafeera, SeLiem, and Melias all look and don’t see anything. Rastorn notes the curious looks they are making and shouts, “Right there, the bug-looking creature with all the legs! Kill it!” For just a second, the group all sees a bat-like creature with blue glowing eyes and close to a dozen spidery black claws appear and strike Kafeera in the ankle with its long, sharp tail, before it disappears again. Rastorn seems to have seen it all along.
Claire looks at the cat and asks Arianna, “Well? Should I shoot it just in case?”
Arianna looks at Claire with a look of mild shock. Then she realizes that in this place who knows what this kitten really could be. She reaches into the closet for the kitten. It appears to be a normal, though starving, kitten. Arianna picks up the kitten and starts to feed it some of her jerky. “So, what do we do with the kitten? I wonder if there’s anything more suitable for a kitten to eat other than jerky here?” she says, as she then makes her way to the kitchen.
“A lot of rotten food and a few apples, but that’s all,” Claire says, breathing a sigh of relief and lowering her crossbow. By the time she’s in the kitchen she’s raised it again and sees the melee going on in the other room. “Oh, bollocks,” she mutters.
Kafeera repeats her demands to the creature,” I bid you surrender now and I shall show mercy! Show yourself, coward!” She continues to swing at the oddity.
With a sigh, Arianna sets the kitten down and draws her longsword. “I guess we should see what kind of mischief they managed to get into.” She tells Claire, “Stay behind me and see if you can get whatever it is they’re fighting with your crossbow.”
“Guess so,” Claire says. She raises her new toy and follows Arianna, trying very hard to keep her attention on the problem at hand and not on the thoughts which crept into her head so easily, mainly how the manly female makes her feel.
Claire and Arianna step through the doorway and see the party swinging weapons around Rastorn, who is sitting on the floor screaming. At first, it looks like they are attacking him, but then they notice he is pointing out an enemy that none except he can see.
Switching to her magical longsword, Arianna rushes in and attacks where Rastorn is pointing.
Claire raises her crossbow and fires where Rastorn is pointing. Much to Melias’ chagrin.
“Careful, I’m right here,” he says. He steps toward the door. “Keep the doors shut!” he orders, pushing Claire out of the way as he reseals the room. “Still in here, yes, Rastorn?” He scoops up flour and prepares to toss it where Rastorn points.
Claire’s second shot goes off just as she is bumped by Melias and she ends up shooting Kafeera!
Seeing Melias dusting the room in flour suddenly gives Arianna an idea. If there’s flour there’s got to be sacks for the flour to be stored in. Sheathing her sword, Arianna looks around for a sack. “If I can find a good sack, we can trap the damn thing inside it and beat the damn thing senseless,” she yells to the group.
“I think there may be an empty bag in the kitchen. They were certainly throwing it around enough,” Claire tells her.
“Right!” Arianna rushes in and swings, before running to the kitchen, unaware she mortally wounded the monster.
Rastorn answers Melias, “It’s still there, but it’s convulsing. Looks like it is in its final death throes. You can all stop swinging sharp objects in my general direction, now!”
Just then, the creature becomes visible. It is indeed dead, although no blood is present. In place of blood, a bluish sparkling mist pours out of its wounds.
“Does anyone want to tell me why I was the only one who could see it?” Rastorn asks, as he wipes the worm-filled flour that Melias just threw out of his eyes. “To the Hells with it, let’s just go to the next room so I can kill something.”
Arianna rushes back into the room with a moldy, rotton bag in her hand. Her shoulders droop as she sees the dead monster.
Everyone looks toward the sound of a kitten weakly meowing on the other side of the door to the hallway.
Arianna drops the bag and runs to get the kitten. She picks it up and says, “One room down the hall has treasure and the other is a library with worms eating the books. The closet this little guy or girl came from hasn’t been checked either.”
“I’ll do that,” Claire says, running back to the closet and proceeding to check it thoroughly, leaving nothing unturned.
SeLiem casts a Cure Serious Wounds on Kafeera, seeming a bit grumpy. He mutters to himself, “We end up shooting each other, and guess who is the person to heal afterwards? Ah-huh, that’s right.” After he is done healing he goes to look at the closet this kitten came, helping Claire search.
Melias looks at the bolt sticking out of Kafeera and blushes. “I’m terribly sorry for my part in that, although I’m not sure why Claire was firing ranged weapons in such a tight spot.” He says the last part loud enough for Claire to hear him from the closet. “Before everyone splits their own way again, does anyone care to examine this secret door I found?” He heads back into the storage room and kneels in front of the secret door.
Arianna, more interested in a secret door than a closet, follows Melias.
Kafeera snaps at Rastorn, “At least you were not struck in the frey!” She pulls the bolt from out of her side. The wound is shallow, her armor having kept it from penetrating very deep. Holding the bloody bolt to Seliem’s nose, after he heals her, she says sarcastically,”Do you wanna trade? I’ll be the healer and you can be the pin cushion! Sound good?”
After hearing Melias’ apology, Kafeera marches to Claire. Thrusting the bolt into her hand she growls, “Keep in mind that once is an accident – twice is intent!”
Claire gingerly takes the bolt out of the enraged Warrior’s hand and goes back to searching. “Keep in mind, in the stomach is an accident and in the head is an intent, you hampster-sired Orc fornicator,” she replies in Elvish, as Kafeera strides back into the kitchen. Switching back to Common, Claire says, “I couldn’t draw my longsword, so I had to use that. Adapt, adopt, and improve.”
They find nothing of interest in the closet, so Claire returns to the rest of the group with Arianna. Deathwish follows soon after, turning the shell over and over in his hands.
With the pantry quickly getting overrun by the party, Melias says, “I don’t think it’s trapped, but you all better stand back, just in case.” He waits for those who wish to back up to do so before pushing the secret door open.
Continued next week!
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