We were all feeling much better after our rest, and were ready to explore the rest of the mansion. Well, as ready as we could be, considering all the ghostly nonsense going on.
We headed back to the main room. The next door we’d not yet explored looked soggy and swollen with the damp. It wasn’t locked, or even closed all the way. It just appeared to be stuck from the humidity.
Andren stepped up and gave the door a solid kick. His foot went right through the moldy wood, leaving him flailing around for a few amusing seconds as he tried to extricate himself. The large hole now in the door revealed a dank and musty drawing room beyond. Andren gave the door another shove, and it popped open.
The room contained a couch and what was once a fine rug. Green mold stretched across the floor to the north wall and curtains framing a window that looked out to the sea. As we entered, Andren suddenly recoiled.
“Did you see that?! In the window?” Our blank looks stared back at him. “I saw a face reflected in the window. A woman’s face.”
None of us had seen it, but it did contribute to our overall uneasiness about this place. There was nothing else of interest in this room save the door on the east wall. This swollen door led to a small library. Two chairs sat before a stone fireplace, one of them on its side. A book lay open, face down between the chairs, and a burgundy and gold striped scarf lay draped across the fallen chair. A bookcase covered the north wall, and a couch was set against the south.
Alimar immediately went to investigate the bookcase and Norkel tossed the couch cushions, for loose change I guess. Kothal cast Mage Hand and began poking at the fallen book and lifting the scarf, but seemed to get no response. Phaedra and I stood in the doorway, she keeping an eye on the proceedings in the room while I watched our backs.
Kothal took a closer look at the book on the floor. It was a children’s storybook, spattered in blood. Really, this house was full of nothing but bad omens. Alimar was having better luck with the bookcase. He found a treatise of various mosses that included a reference to Sorrow Moss. Unfortunately the description told us little more than we already knew about the plant.
He also found several books on alchemy that got Kothal’s attention. The mage joined Alimar at the bookshelf. Norkel, meanwhile had found nothing but old chewing gum and some suspicious stains on the couch. As he turned see what the rest of us were up to, he noticed the scarf slithering across the floor towards him.
“Hey gu-“ The druids words were cut off as the scarf flew at him and wrapped itself around his neck. Before we could get to him, Norkel was on the floor, unconscious, with the scarf wrapping tighter and tighter around his throat. Phaedra was the first to get to him, and tried to unwraps the scarf with no success. Alimar shouldered her out of the way, dagger in hand. He deftly slid the blade between the folds of the scarf and easily sliced through the material. The scarf fell away; Andren tossed the remnants in a corner as he healed the elf.
Norkel came to and seemed fine. As the party paused to catch its breath, I noticed the torn scarf moving again, this time towards me. I called out a warning as I hastily retreated from the room, pulling my daggers as I went.
Phaedra came over and pinned the thing to the floor with the point of her sword. Closing her eyes, she cast a Bless spell on the room. A sense of sorrow and anger washed over her as she heard a loud scream and saw a vision of a woman wearing the scarf and a man with the side of his head caved in. The vision lingered for but a moment then disappeared. The paladin looked around the room and found a heavy, iron bookend lying on the floor. Picking it up, she noticed that it was covered in dried blood.
Creeped out, and with no other options here, we headed back into the main room. East of the door we exited was a large, square rug covered in mold. Not unusual for this place, except the mold on this rug grew in such a way as to perfectly depict a spiral staircase that seemed to descend into the floor. Andren lifted the corner of the rug and looked underneath but found nothing but fungus and mildew. Dropping it back down, he moved to stand on the rug, as if he were going to go down the stairs. Nothing happened. We moved on.
At the far east end of the main floor was what appeared to have once been a formal dining room. In the room’s center there was a large mahogany table that had seen better days. Twin fireplaces were on either side of the door on the west wall, while the east wall was composed entirely of four floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows.
The first was a gnarled tree with enraged face, the second an immense hook-beaked bird with sky blue and gold plumage. The third depicted a winged centaur-like creature with the lower body of a lion and a snarling woman’s upper torso. The last showed a deep blue squid-like creature with evil red eyes. The windows were grimy, but otherwise seemed in good condition.
We poked around a bit but found nothing else of interest in the room. Andren opened the last door off the main chamber to reveal a stairway leading downward. We descended and found ourselves in a large kitchen. A big, rough-hewn table sat in the center of the room, covered in what looked like rat droppings. A long-cold cast iron stove sat against the east wall, with several smaller worktables beside. On the opposite wall, the masonry had cracked and fallen away in several places, revealing bare earth beyond. It looked as if someone or something had been digging. There was dirt scattered on the floor and what looked like several small holes or passages beyond the broken wall.
Alimar stepped up and peered into the dark, cracked earth. At first he saw nothing, but a sudden rush of scrabbling noises presaged two large swarms of rats that spilled into the room. Andren was ready and brought his mace down in the midst of the swarm. The rats scattered, but seemed to take little damage from the blow. Alimar made good use of the draenei’s distraction by backpedaling away, then casting Burning Hands at the swarm. The kitchen filled with the vile smell of singed rat flesh.
I hopped up on the table to get away from the beasties. My bow and rapier were next to useless, so I pulled out a flask of lantern oil and flung it at the wall next to one of the swarms. It shattered nicely, dousing the rats in the viscous fluid.
The rats continued to pour out of the wall. Most were missing large patches of fur, and the flesh beneath was covered in sores and boils. Alimar and Andren were getting the worst of it; both had resorted to prying the biting vermin off themselves with daggers. I threw my second flask, splashing more oil on the swarms. Norkel got the idea and cast one of his tiny fireballs. The swarms erupted in flame.
I took a running jump to get away from the now burning table. Alimar and Andren were frantically retreating from the flaming masses of rats. Kothal helped by sending an eldritch blast at Andren that somehow managed to knock the rats off him without doing (much) damage to the cleric.
Phaedra stepped up behind her brother and flipped the burning table onto its side. The then gave it a mighty shove, trying to push it against the wall and block the rat holes. The rats scattered, them formed back up into swarms that ran at Norkel and me. I was able to dodge the worst of it, but Norkel wasn’t so lucky. The rats, some still on fire, attacked him. They bit and clawed at him, overwhelming the druid until he fell.
Andren was able to quickly heal Norkel, then cast a sacred flame on himself to try and shake the rats. The beasts were persistent, I’ll give them that. I tried to drop and roll, hoping that would free me, but no such luck. I jumped back to my feet, then began rummaging in my backpack.
Norkel was finally able to get free of the rats; he retreated to a far corner. I found what I was looking for, pulling a large glass bottle from my pack. I pulled the cork and set the bottle on the floor. Smoke began issuing forth at a prodigious rate, and the rats liked it not at all. The ones on me leapt away. I hastily retreated from the swarms as well.
Kothal got the idea quickly. He ran over to the smoke cloud, and the rats declined to follow. He then hit the nearest swarm with a massive eldritch blast that cut their numbers in half. Phaedra finally got the table in place to block the rat holes; now we just needed to deal with the ones still in the room. She decided to start with the ones on her brother. Her warhammer swing hit Andren in the chest and knocked him backwards, and to her credit did knock a few rats off of him as well.
Alimar was still struggling to get free of the rats. I shot my bow at his swarm, but after using both my oil flasks and the smokejar, I was pretty much useless. I retreated to the back of the room, as far from the rats as possible and waited for an opportunity to do something beneficial.
Norkel threw another mini-fireball at Alimar, singeing a few more of the rats. Phaedra snatched up the smokejar and set it down next to Andren. The rats on the cleric fled, scurrying around the room in a panic before joining the swarm attacking Alimar. The fighter was now literally covered in rats! They were clawing and biting him badly. He frantically staggered towards the smokejar, the rats abandoning him once he got into the smoke cloud. The fighter cast Ray of Frost on the retreating mass, hoping to kill a few and slow the rest.
Across the room, Norkel morphed into a panther and eyed the remaining rats around him hungrily. Kothal cast an eldritch blast near the big cat that scattered the vermin. They scurried away under one of the doors. Phaedra cast Sanctuary on Norkel in case they came back, then healed Alimar.
The giant swarm attacked Kothal, but he avoided the worst of it. Andren sacred flamed a few more as Alimar stepped back up to the rats, daggers flashing. Phaedra pounded the swarm repeatedly with her warhammer. I petted Norkel.
Kothal slipped the swarm and ran into the smoke cloud, which had expanded to almost fill the north end of the room. The rats swarmed Alimar and Andren. Alimar again took the worst of it, but his ray of frost and Andren’s sacred flames whittled down the rats numbers. Finally the few remaining scuttled away.
I corked the smokejar, and the room began to clear, revealing our bloody and ragged-looking group! I cringed at all the scratches and bloody bitemarks my companions were covered with. Norkel healed Alimar as best he could, but all of us were pretty drained and needed to recuperate. We went back upstairs to the small room where we’d rested before, and settled in once more to recover.