The room wasn’t comfortable, but it served its purpose. We were all feeling much better as we headed back to the cellar of the mansion to continue our search. Upon entering the kitchen, we found that the table Phaedra had pushed up against the wall had shifted. Not wanting to deal with any more rat swarms, we pushed the table firmly against the wall, blocking as many of the ratholes as we could. Then we gathered other items and debris from the kitchen to form a makeshift barricade to hold the table in place. Satisfied that we’d done the best we could, we began to search the rest of the cellar.
Andren took the lead, shoving open the first door he came to. Beyond was what looked almost like a barracks. There were two sets of bunk beds in the room, and both were relatively fresh given the state of decay the rest of the mansion was in. Curious.
I have to say, I was rather proud of the initiative Andren was showing. Clearly he looked up to me as a positive male role model, and was expressing it by assuming the role of the party rogue as a way of seeking my approval. Granted, his technique certainly needed some polishing, but that could come with time. I wiped away a tiny tear as the draenei clumsily stomped around the room banging on the walls and looking under the beds.
I searched behind Andren, but found nothing either. Other than the bunks, there was nothing but a fallen chair in the room. Andren righted it as we puzzled the state of the room, but ultimately decided to press on.
Andren listened at the next door, then gave it a once-over for traps. (So proud!) He then opened the door to find the rat’s lair. A horrible smell assaulted us as Andren poked through piles of sloughed fur and rat feces, and I was doubly thankful for his rogue-in-training attitude. Finding nothing, we mercifully moved on.
The next door was the one the depleted swarm Norkel had been battling had disappeared under. Andren cautiously opened it to reveal the remains of a wine cellar and thankfully no rats. All the bottles were shattered, just glass everywhere. Andren again tapped on the walls, and I noticed a hollow sound as he tapped the back one. I coached my protégé to look for the hidden latch, and was delighted when he found it!
Beyond was a secret wine stash that was still intact. We found six bottles of a rare port wine from the mage city of Dalarin. They looked to be in pristine shape, probably valuable. I told the party as much, and we decided to bring them along for now. Andren carefully wrapped them and placed them in his pack.
The door on the east wall led to a narrow hallway, the end of which was covered floor to ceiling in a sickly purple mold. Phaedra scoped it out, then asked Norkel if he knew anything about this particular fungus. All the druid said was if we hurried through it we’d probably be okay. Not exactly the reassuring professional opinion she was looking for, I’d wager.
We hustled down the corridor and around the corner, holding our breaths as we rushed through the growth. There was a door at the end of the hall which opened into some sort of workshop or laboratory. Various sorts of alchemical apparatus sat on a large table against the far wall, with a shelf full of ingredients and components hung above it. On the west wall was a bookshelf that drew Alimar to it like a moth to flame.
Andren went over to investigate the lab table, but paused in mid-stride with a glazed look in his eyes. He doubled over screaming, then straightened with a wild look and made for the door! The rest of us sprang into action. Our reflexes were exceptional, our results less so.
Phaedra tried to grab her brother but missed. Alimar tried to slow him with a ray of frost and I tried to shock him back to his senses with a friendly stab of my dagger. We both missed as well. Only Norkel was successful, summoning forth his great clump of vines to fill the room and entangle Andren and Alimar.
Then Andren, still screaming, tore the vines from himself like they were made of paper and ran towards the hallway with a look of utter panic on his face.
Phaedra followed, yelling for us not to attack her brother. Then she smacked him, trying to snap him out of it. (So she can hit him, but we can’t?) I angled for a shot with the crossbow, but held, waiting to see what Andren would do. Norkel tried to restrain the cleric, but Andren easily broke free and continued around the hallway corner and through the purple fungus. Phaedra followed with me right behind her. I shoved my hands into my utility belt and came up with a double handful of small metal ball bearings. I hurled them ahead of me on the floor of the hall.
Andren ran through them without even slowing up. Phaedra however slipped and fell, and I, the epitome of grace and coordination, stumbled into her and went down as well. Behind me, I heard Alimar enter the hallway and promptly slip and fall on his ass with a curse.
A dark shape passed over us as Phaedra and I extricated ourselves. Norkel, in panther form again, easily navigated the hallway in pursuit of our possessed cleric. We followed as quickly as we could without falling again.
Andren had reached the kitchen by then, and was heading for the stairs. Norkel came up behind him and made a glorious pounce… only to bounce off the cleric’s heavily armored back and fall in a heap. Andren did stop long enough to smack Norkel in the face with his mace. (Pounce bounce, mace face… I think I hit my head in that hallway.)
Andren still looked frantic as Phaedra tackled him, yelling for him to come back to her. Alimar came up and dove on the draenei’s weapon arm, but the cleric easily shook him free. I was trying to talk him down to no effect when a huge gout of water sprung from nowhere to drench the siblings. Andren immediately stopped struggling as he and his sister both began coughing and cursing, spitting out the water they’d swallowed. Norkel, our hero, slumped to the floor with an exhausted sigh.