I wake after a night’s rest to the crash of thunder and the flash of lightning. It is too early to deal with the party’s chipper moods. I roll over and curl up with Buttercup for a few moments more before stretching and rising for the day. Honestly, why did I have to take up with ‘morning’ people?
After a while, we gather our belongings then set out. By the Peacock, these people know how to run their jaws with useless prattle. Do they not see that their short lives are cut even shorter by wasting all this time to talk when they could take action instead? Does this not speak louder than any words that come out of their mouths?
Once we get to the river, they realized that there would be no hope in getting the cart on to the ferry and over to the other side, so it was taken back to the church and left there for safe-keeping until our return.
We eventually make it across the river, though there was a worrisome moment when my new friend falls into the drink. Our quick thinking and keen roping skills save her as she would have surely sunk to the bottom of the river in her heavy armour.
We follow the increasingly muddy trail through the forest when we are set upon by several large bugs, one of them having a green sail and spikes coming out of each of its legs…we dispatch the creatures and I realize that Buttercup has been injured in the skirmish. I am…horrified by my carelessness in bringing my ward into the fight and not being fast enough to spare her from harm. Vermella heals us and I thank her in my own, admittedly awkward, way and they begin the nasty business of dismembering the bugs while I retrieve Romulus from the path.
The others gather some gold and gemstones from the stomachs of the creatures, presumably from those who were less capable of defending themselves, and we make ready to continue on our way through the forest.
We continue on until we get to a part of the path that has been flooded and a lone figure stands on the other bank of the new stream. Vermella senses faint evil coming from her and the stranger suggests that we go no further for the night and, though I know the woman on the other side of the bank is lying to me about the state of the path, I cannot deny that heading indoors sounds like the best idea I’ve heard in a long while.
The others trudge down the path and we eventually come to a farm with an apple orchard and corn fields. Something about them seems…off. Too quiet, perhaps? Red pauses meaningfully and concentrates when we get to the front porch of the farmhouse. Something must be setting off her goody-goody senses as she seems uneasy around the pumpkins on the porch.
Our host for the evening is a woman named Chandra, and her man-servant Demetrius. We eat a hearty meal and retire to the guest bedroom where Buttercup quickly claims the lone bed in the room. Well done my little one. Ellen has decided to keep watch while the rest of us…rest. Finally – I won’t have a spell put on me and be bored out of my mind watching the others sleep. Before I drift off with Buttercup by my side I am reminded of Fumbles’ face after I took liberties with a piece of charcoal and bury my own face in the pillow. Though I do not believe the frog would dare touch me with his ridiculous hands, mayhap Ellen would think it humorous to add something to my visage while I slumber.
I am woken from my sleep by Ellen who insists that she has heard a scream from somewhere nearby. With reluctance leave the bed and see that Buttercup quickly occupies the warmth my body has left between the covers. Fine. Adorable as she may be and not be in need of beauty sleep, I recall her injuries from earlier with the large bugs and decide to leave her be. She is a good, pretty fox and…
Dammit, they want me to scout. Humans with their pathetic eyesight.
I come up with a devilishly clever signal for Red to concentrate to find any evidence of evil in our vicinity. We discover a trap door in the ceiling and I am voluntold to go investigate with my keen elven eyes. Fine. Stupid. Lousy. House. Loath as I am to split the party up, I ascend the stairs to find a small attic that had been transformed into some kind of schoolhouse for two children. Interesting, and a bit off-putting. Children leave me feeling…awkward…as they tend to not have any fear of me. They usually learn to both fear and hate the Drow (though, I must admit, for good reason as we are a fierce, brave, and vicious race) because they are taught to hate by their parents…much in the way that my own family tried to…
There is a chest in the corner which I attempt to open, but the lock holds against my best efforts. Maybe because I was just woken up from a lovely dream of mountains of riches with which I could start my own animals rescue…
The room takes on a sinister tone when I see blood begin to pour down the chalkboard and ‘I’ appears on the surface. In the distance, I hear what I learn is the slamming of the door to the attic…but that is of no concern to me now. I feel as though…my soul is being ripped from my body. I do the only thing I can do and blindly attack the chalkboard. The letter disappears and my head is clear again. I warn Red to not let letters appear on the surface.
A brief, but desperate fight ensues that leads to the board being destroyed and the wall it stood against shattering into the night. We may have some explaining to do with our host in the morning, should we survive that long.
I try my hand again at the chest once the dust has begun to settle, but there is no use. The anguish I felt at my soul being torn from my body seems to have rattled me and I break my lock picks. One set down, one set to go.
The frog smashes his way through the lock in the same way he does everything – with no finesse. Inside the chest I find a man’s suit, hat, boots, gloves. Red or Ellen…one of them…tell me the boots and gloves give off magic.
While the others mill about in their indecision, I notice the smaller boards in the desks now say something: ‘I am sorry I was unable to help more’ and ‘They were not prepared’.
Well…that’s not the least bit foreboding. We leave the attic and I head back to the bedroom to check on my darling Buttercup. She has snuggled under the covers and looks content – I do not disturb her slumber as I have a feeling the night has just begun for us.
We check each of the other rooms in turn only to find a supply closet and an abandoned bedroom of the lady of the house. The children’s bedroom, however, proved to be a sight more difficult to deal with than the others.
Something horrible must have befallen the children as their poltergeists hurled various toys around the room at us. I am truly growing tired of all of these shenanigans and wish to be done with this house. Why did we come here? It seemed like such a good idea at the time…
Upon dispatching the ghostly children, I heard someone at the front of the house and went to investigate, blending in with the shadows down the hall and stairs. When I saw the familiar silhouette of Fumbles at the door with some kind of filthy dwarf, I relaxed. Fumbles has proven time and again that he is perfectly harmless, so anyone travelling with him would be likewise. We exchange banter back and forth, possible exhausting him mentally, then I show them up to the second story where the others await. I smirk to myself on the way up, thinking that I might be pleased to see the clumsy human again…in the way one is happy to see a stray dog has found a home. Yes…he’s like a pet. Maybe I shall keep him.
We all head back to the main floor of the house and begin to rummage through the rooms, looking for evidence or something nefarious, and the newest member to our rag-tag group finds a hidden catch on the mantle place. It releases a hidden door to room that is….just horrific. What’s left of a child lays on a table in the middle of the room with implements of torture on the walls. The smell is overwhelming and I am briefly sickened by it. The frog, as usual, makes a useless display of his anger by breaking chairs and tables in the drawing room. I gather myself and pull one of the curtains from the window and use it cover the child. Be at peace, little one. We will be back to put you to rest later, I’m sure if Ellen or Red have their say.
We find Demetrius’s room, but there is nothing of interest there save for a book written in some kind of evil language that I can’t quite make out, even with my proficiency in linguistics. I hold on to it for now as I cannot read it, but know enough to surmise that this should not be left lying around for someone foolish to find. I take the coin purse I find in his bedside drawer as payment for…something amazing I’ve done, surely.
We continue downwards into the basement where we find an adult human-sized grave along with the house’s stock of preserves and ale. Because where else would you be inclined to keep a body, but in a cool, dry place? The frog volunteers to go get a shovel to uncover what is sure to be a corpse and I am thankful for the quiet. The dwarf takes this opportunity to notice that there is alcohol to be consumed just sitting there in the casks. He asks if I can open one and I oblige him as he reminds me of that, admittedly likeable, half-orc who would always offer a drink after a fight.
We grow tired of waiting for the frog to come back and the dwarf begins to unearth the body with an empty tankard. I realize I might be able to do more than tolerate this one as he seems to be an actions-are-louder-than-words type and I appreciate that in world full of too many people that just run their mouths. We uncover part of the body of a seemingly scholarly sort of chap, complete with tidy spectacles in his pocket and book of some kind of arcane writing on his person. We pass it to Fumbles as he has proven that he literate in the ways of magic. That, or he’s incredibly good at fooling us that he can read. At this point, neither would surprise me.
Soon after, the frog comes rushing back with news of our lady hostess performing some kind of ritual out in the cornfield. We gather ourselves and our weapons and head out the back of the house towards the barn where she was last seen.
When we get there, she has just completed the ritual and the battle commences. Fumbles and his new friend could actually hit the broadside of a barn, but little else. I admit to being slightly amused by them being chased by a demon cow creature, but only because they survived. Red was the one to strike the final blow to the wretched woman we would come to realize was a blood hag. A glorious throw of her sword flew swift and sure, ensuring that evil die and good endure as it hit its mark of the hag’s heart and the battle was won. The newcomer took ownership over the gloves we discovered earlier as well as some of the farming implements.
After the fight, we go back to the house to clean up the torture chamber and I clean the child as best I can while the others regurgitated their meals in the corner. When the remains are wrapped, we walk out to the small graveyard we had spied behind the house and the frog set about digging a grave. Ellen, Red, and myself, see a family mausoleum and go to see if there was room enough to set the child to rest. Once inside, we discover a woman laying on the ground with a slit throat who bore a striking resemblance to whom we had assumed was the lady of the house.
The woman with the slit throat looks incredibly similar to Chandra. Fumbles comes out of the house to inform us that the records of the house don’t match with the name Chandra – they match with the name of Celeste. It appears as though the woman we met had somehow replaced the real lady of the house.
It also turns out the husband had died in a farming accident a year prior and the widow was left with the farm to run with her three small children and, we presume, Demetrius. Who is now a frog – did I forget to mention that? Yes, we now have a frog that was once a person. I can only assume that the goodygoodies will want to change him back somehow to stand for any crimes he may have committed. He did, after all, have a demonic book in his room. Why must it have been a frog? The somewhat sentient one with poor judgment and impulse control is bad enough, but now we have another to tend to until he can be turned back into a man.
Three small children…and we have found but one. I close my eyes to think of the horrors the other two might have had befall them, when we hear from outside that the dwarf has discovered two sacks in the pumpkin patch. Sure enough, they are the remaining children and we lay them to rest with the parents in the family crypt. I notice that the epitaph across the archway says: Birth and death are written in the bones, but bones can be broken. Well.
Having completed our latest task, we went back to the house to rest and gather our strength when the frog had the fine idea to knock about the pumpkins on the porch. This, of course, set off some kind of magical trap and they came to life one after another first attacking, then exploding on people after their defeat. I swear to the Peacock, that the frog will be the death of us one day with his impulsive nature. I only hope that it comes to bite him on the ass before it kills the rest of us.
Red gladly announces that the house in finally clean of all evil she was able to detect from before and we go back to our quarters for a much deserved rest before we put this cursed business to our backs in the morning.