By Beth Griese
Date: October 25, 1997 and November 8, 1997
|Borreau||Blonde Human||Tempus Cleric||Brian Smith|
|Lorivar Menasson||Short, dark, & hairy||Monk||Vaughan Herron|
|Nory||Gnome||Illusionist / Thief||Stu Collins|
|Telaran||1/2 Elf, Buzz cut||fighter||Jim Gaynor|
|Verence Gallow||Thin human||Mystra Cleric||Kent Jenkins|
Quote of the Day:
"Id like to officially hate it when that happens." -- Stu Collins
"Im about to say something that will alter the party forever. Theres a set of bagpipes." -- Jim Leitzel
To Garen Thundersson, cleric of Mielikki. From your faithful friend, Jade.
Cleansing our new home fiefdom has turned out to be much more difficult than I would have imagined. We had barely managed to get home to Castle Weston and try to settle back into a routine again (we brought the dragon's corpse back with us to try to prevent scavengers from overrunning the mountain that had served as its home). Some of us scattered out and about as we tried to figure out exactly what one does with a dead dragon, when Telaran found an abandoned manor house in the portion of the forest around us that Borreau and I had not yet explored. Verence traveled to the overgrown, weatherbeaten stone house and found that the house held lingering evil within it and reeked of undead presence. We had gone right from one challenge to another.
We scrambled over the carriage entrance fence and began exploring this manor. Whoever used to live here held more wealth than any I've seen in Arabel or Suzail. The carriage house held a huge black carriage, with skull-shaped running lamps and expensive upholstery. It, of everything we found, was free of dust and the wear of years of neglect. Telaran found a spike in the floor under the center of the wagon that had a symbol of Lathander carved into it. We can only guess that this spike protects the carriage from age, and possible keeps it bound here, as well.
The house itself was stunning. We found items of luxury and beauty in every room, including a magical candelabra that lit when you entered the dining room and a clockwork piece that stood near the entrance taller than me. Crystal chandeliers, collections of books, stained glass windows and plush carpeting decorated rooms. And most amazingly, in one room, an illusion still created a sunlit garden with a water fountain. The owner of this house had the wealth of kings at his disposal, and it had brought him nothing. Now it all lay abandoned and forgotten, just like its owner.
We ran into a couple of the former residents of the house as we explored, although none gave us trouble at first. In the library, an invisible ghost with a nasty sense of humor threw books at us until Verence was able to pin down its location and turn it. And in the monstrous ballroom, a harpsichord player spoke to us by playing music. We asked it questions and it beat out notes as yes and no answers. It had no problems hearing us, although we saw and heard no trace of it. Truth be told, I think I'm going to worry about that the next time I'm in Borreau's arms. The harpsichord ghost told us that there was evil in the house, spirits that were not at rest, although he offered very little other information before going silent. Had his time run out, or had he been silenced?
We never did find out the answer. As we continued to search the house, we found a secret room into a huge wizard's laboratory. A pentagram had been etched into the floor with what looked to be gem dust. And in the center of the room, a silver figure appeared. His features looked vaguely like the lord of the house that we had seen in portraits down on the first floor, except that his face was withered by time and torment, and his skeletally thin body was wrapped in chains. Somehow, it shouted at us to go away, and his anger and pain blew through me like a cold draught. I felt as withered as the spirit in that moment - just like the apparition before had aged us with his glare alone.
I didn't get much time to think about this, though, because Verence stepped forward - I think he was going to try to talk to it - and the spirit attacked. It swept through the room like fall leaves on the wind, but it didn't manage to do much to us, and our swords scored some strong hits. It finally gave up and flew, howling like a hound, up through the ceiling. I think Telaran, Borreau, and I would have nearly gone through the ceiling after it in our desperation to finish this thing off before it got away, but Verence stopped us with a call and cast a spell that he said would help us against it. With a bit more magical protection on our side, the whole party stampeded upstairs with a vengeance. The lines on some of our faces that hadn't been there moments ago - the cursed effect of that ghost's scream - gave us all the more reason to hunt this thing down and make sure its spirit was put to rest at last, willing or no.
We threw open doors on the third floor of the house like a rampage, running from room to room in a hunt for that ghost. We were lucky that the worst thing that happened to us was Telaran putting his foot through a step that wasn't really there and bruising his ankle.
One room stopped us all dead in our tracks and forget our chase for the moment. It was a chapel, and must have taken up nearly half the third floor. The chapel was dedicated to Torm. But the part that jerked us all to a halt was the ghostly figure - not the one we were chasing - that walked through the room. It acted as if it didn't see us, and then another figure appeared from the opposite direction. This one WAS the ghost we were chasing, but different - he looked like he had in the portrait downstairs, it was just that we could see through him as if he were made of water. Silently, their mouths working but no sound coming out, the priest and our ghost began to argue, their fight growing more and more angry, and then three shadows dropped from the ceiling and our ghost cast lightning - all still without sound - at the priest, throwing him halfway across the temple and leaving him as a smoking corpse before his body stilled against the floor. The moment that happened, all the figures disappeared from the room, and we were alone again, with some much greater clues about what had happened in this house.
There were four crypts in this room, and we all quietly walked over the coffins, no one willing to speak loudly after what we had just seen. Two of the coffins were labeled "Lady Samantha Hinton" and "Dame Page Hinton, beloved wife and mother." The most ornate coffin had been created for "Sir John Hinton, Sword of the Kingdom," but scratched above it in the stone was added 'Here lies John, damn glad he's gone.' The final coffin was completely unreadable, except for some scratches that read 'Here lies Fred, I'm glad he's dead.'
Our search was slower now, since it seemed we had lost all chance of finding our rogue spirit quickly. We opened more bedrooms and living quarters. We found one room with a half-rotted corpse still hanging from a noose in the center of the room. And in one room that had been barred and locked, we found a skeleton in a white dress sprawled on the floor.
As we looked at the skeleton, Nory suddenly started talking to nobody, and when we asked him what on Faerun he thought he was doing, Verence said he saw it, too. When I asked what it was that he saw, he told me to hold out my hand and step forward. The instant I did, I felt a chill dampness settle on my hand, like a cold fog, and then a voice whispered from somewhere inside, not outside my ears. A young woman's voice asked if she could talk to me, but she had a strange idea of talking to me, because when I said yes, I suddenly felt as if I had been shoved somewhere deep inside me, and my body was talking and moving without my help. I guess I had been possessed.
Between the questions I managed to push at the woman and the questions of the rest of the party as they realized what had happened (poor Borreau was the most confused of all), we found out that we were talking to Samantha, the same one whose name had been inscribed on the crypt below us, and we finally got the full picture of what had happened in this house. The ghost we chased was of a man named Hirontius Bosco, a wizard who had come to this wealthy family to act as a tutor to Samantha. He had killed the whole family, and left Samantha to starve to death in this room so long as she refused to marry him. She refused right through to the end. So much for my assumptions about how much a spoiled rich daughter is capable to standing - this was a lady with resolve. She told us that Bosco had always feared her father's sword, which trailed fire upon his wish, and that it was buried with him and we could use it now against Bosco. I watched out of my eyes with a smile I couldn't form as Telaran and Verence went back downstairs at a run.
I asked as calmly as I could to be given my body back, and Samantha agreed as if it were a simple request made in a court ballroom. Before she left, she asked me to make sure her body was buried properly, which I gladly swore to her would be done. When I was left blinking my own eyes again and biting my own lip, I wasn't sure whether the relief I felt was mine or hers.
Once we had our heads clear again (mostly mine), and once Telaran and Verence returned with Sir John's sword, we took off again, with a bit of our original urgency, up stairs to the attic of the house. We reached the top of the house tower, and found a round room with a corpse lying in the center with a wine goblet in its half-skeleton hand. But before we could even step inside the room, Telaran turned around and landed such a blow on Nory that he almost threw him halfway back down the stairs. He tried to tackle Verence and both ended up nearly rolling down the steps. I ran into the room to see if I could spot anything on the skeleton that might get rid of whatever seemed to have possessed Telaran. While the wrestling match on the stairs continued, Lorivar hit Telaran squarely on the back of the neck, and he dropped like a stone.
The moment he was knocked out, our ghost rose from his form, and the battle was on again. The thing was still hurt badly from when we met it downstairs - that must have been why it tried to possess one of us instead - and we were able to finish it off this time. The moment Lorivar sliced through it with Sir John's sword for the final time, noises echoed through the house as all the magical luxuries we had seen stopped working, and things collapsed all over. The curse had been lifted from the house at last.
My first order of business was to get Samantha's skeleton down to the crypt and into the sarcophagus where it belonged. Borreau and Verence both solemnly performed the rites of their gods to put the spirit to rest. With that done, we went over the house with a fine-tooth comb to see if there were any puzzle pieces we were missing, any stray trails of Bosco's evil left behind. The one mystery left to us was the blessed spike that was under the scary carriage in the stable house. When we pulled that spike, a mist fell onto Verence, and it was his turn to find out what it's like to lose control of what your own body was doing.
The spike had sealed the true resting place of Sir John. Sir John spoke with us. He wanted to make sure that Bosco had been removed. The nobleman had been killed there in the carriage house, and when Bosco had realized that his spirit was still around, he posed as the house's lord and brought in a priest of Lathander to seal the true lord, Sir John, in the ground. What a horrible fate.
We're done with the house of the Hintons, now. Sir John told us that he has a brother in Raven's Bluff, and we've sent word to that city to let the brother know of the inheritance that awaits him in our fiefdom. Maybe we'll get some taxes out of all this for the castle. Thank goodness, we seem to have run out of evil places on our list to clear off our land. I wonder if how long that will stay true? For now, my next task is to find some of that youth potion again. Although not as bad as last time, once again I'm staring at an older version of myself when I look into the mirror. The look of the extra years doesn't really bother me, but the way it makes me a little slower to get up in the morning does, as does the fact that Borreau is still his natural age, and I much prefer to be younger than him by a few years rather than older. Maybe it's time for another visit to Suzail.
The Jade Letters are the property and copyright of Beth Griese, not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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