The party boarded once again the Hugo II and was bound for dry land at last. Each of them spent they voyage contemplating what they had seen in the caves, or at least trying to distract themselves from doing exactly that. As before, time had been warped while they were in the lair of the dreamfolk, lasting almost a week in the rest of the world. As their ship pulled into the harbor at cape hope, it was apparent that it had been an eventful absence.
They returned to their lodgings, Calder again wishing to recuse himself from the spiritual discomfort of Waeslyn’s mansion chose a more modest inn. Waeslyn’s father had come to town on business but was overjoyed to see his son. He invited the entire group to the dining hall to meet the people his son was traveling with. After some social missteps regarding the Mahi-Tahi relations the talk inevitably turned to firearms as it often did in that house. Maarus’ exceptional skill was displayed and he again turned down the lucrative offer of abandoning the life of the sheriff.
Interrupting dinner late, Waeslyn’s elder brother and heir to the family titles burst into the room in disarray and had a hurried conversation with his father. It turned out that the spirit home constructed on the isolated hill near town had become increasingly disturbing of late. The first team of soothsayers had returned raving mad, the second team not at all. Despite tremendous personal apprehension, Waeslyn volunteered to investigate the disturbance in a more prepared fashion, bolstered by the support of his comrades.
Swelling with pride at his son’s bravery, he authorized the dispensation of Rentyllian assets to prepare for the excursion. As they went to market, the party set about outfitting themselves as they had not had a chance to in a long while spending time in the wild. And as they donned their new gear, wondered how long it would be before they again had the opportunity…
The party began the somber journey up to the path. Calder still wrestling with whatever his personal preparations had entailed. The guards bid them entrance under orders to allow them in, but warned them that strange events had increased of late coming from that wicked mansion. A large oaken door gave them entrance in the early morning sunlight, but as soon as the last of them crossed the threshold, slammed shut behind them and would not open.
There was immediately a haunting event when the party encountered a mirror wherein their reflections were performing gruesome acts of self mutilation. Fortunately the party’s iron will resists the compulsion. Maarus did not wish to incur any further black marks on his luck and simply reversed the mirror so that it faced the wall. The hallways beyond began to wind in a confusing labyrinth, and Milvin suggested the use of chalk to track their way.
Brute force from Woomera forced open a door to what once may have been a portrait gallery. The once animate paintings had been savagely massacred, the subjects now unrecognizable. With great effort they removed the massive portraits from the wall to see what was behind them. The first four had grim caricatures of the subject drawn in what seemed to be blood. The last one held a safe with three key holes. Not having any of the necessary keys, they marked the site with chalk and the word SAFE before making a point to return later.
Back the way they had come, Waeslyn’s nerves began to get the better of them and a locked door was unlocked by a powerful rifle blast. Inside was a curious parody of a greenhouse. Plants that had been denied care and sunlight too long withered in piles of dirt atop an ornate carpet. Calder once again under the influences of forces unseen by his comrades , set about vainly trying to care for the plants. But in his attempts, he did find a rusty iron key.
Having come to the end of the path that they found in that direction they followed the chalk arrows back the way they had come to discover with dismay that they were not immune to the haunting effects of the manor. Waeslyn as a result abandoned their use as markers. As they entered an elaborate dining room, a stranger was found attempting to pick a lock on the opposite door. He revealed himself as Therran, and cryptically dodged most questions about his arrival here. Suspicious of his character, they party agreed that for the time being at least, his skill set might prove useful. Calder purified some extremely suspicious food and they ate to replenish energy before continuing onward.
A curiosity was found by Woomera in the form of a full bed affixed to the wall, the sheets squirming with life. When Calder moved to investigate, a mass of bedbugs, lice, and other minor parasites washed over him. In a disgusted panic Calder striped down and summoned a large spider to cleanse himself of the infestation. The key that fell to the ground was small reward for the ordeal he felt. Upon seeing the second in the set of keys the party remarked that they needed but one more. Therran offered that with those two already they might not need anymore having accepted his skills.
They returned to the portrait room, but Waeslyn was horrified to see the chalk writing had been replaced by the word DANGER. after using the first two keys, Therran was able to jimmy the final lock revealing a collection of bullets left there by someone expressly to combat ethereal foes. Collecting the suspicious gift, they pressed further into the mansion.
In a master bedroom with animal figures carved from hedgerows, the party was assaulted by a pack of dead and deranged hounds. With Maarus’ holy gun the pack stood no change against the party. In this room was found pointlessly the final key to the safe, lifted by force of mind from the hedge by Therran. Woomera’s suspicion of their tag along grew with this display. In the adjoining chamber, Calder collected some eclectic tomes while Maarus noted that the writing implement had ordered them to leave.
Rounding a corner, they spied a staircase leaded down deeper into the labyrinth. The halls continued to twist at the bottom, and Woomera examined their options. One hallway appeared to plunge deeper into darkness suspiciously straight, and they elected to continue investigating the winding corridors instead for the time being. The suspected remains of the second soothsaying party were found, having suffered a grisly fate. The throne in the same room enticed those near it to sit upon it, but magical examinations from Calder revealed what a painful decision that could be.
As the party entered into a grand ballroom, enchanted instruments were heard playing an eerie tune. Bloody footprints appeared and disappeared in time with the song, performing some sort of macabre dance. The party tried to skirt the edges of the dance floor, but Calder’s feet strayed onto the ornate tile, and a bloody partner invited him to join them. Fearing for his fate, Calder was able to resist the invitation and quickly lept from the dance floor.
After picking another lock and rounding another corner the party found themselves again with a choice of paths. Deciding that whatever event ultimately vexed this place was probably deeper within, they chose to descend even further into the haunted darkness, hoping that this would be what led to a swift escape from this maddening manor.