After their rest, the party re-entered the building through the tower.
“There’s got to be a better way in,” grunted Cundall, as he heaved himself up the wall of the tower on a rope.
“We could clear the boulders at the front,” called up Minimus from the bottom.
There was no reply other than an indignant “oink!” from Chauntea the pig as it’s basket was bumped against the wall.
Once inside the heroes continued their exploration. They found a room, once a study, now piled with corpses of villagers taken from the ogre raids on Lighthouse. All of the bodies were male, Marie noted. They still had not found any female victims. The adjoining cloakroom would normally lead to out on the beach, but the ogres had piled rocks against this door as well. In the cloakroom, looking at all the cloaks, walking sticks, travelling bags, boots and torches, decided to cast a detect magic spell, just in case. He was rewarded with his enhanced magical sight detecting transmutation magic coming from a pile of travelling bags. He plucked out the source, which she declared to be a bag of holding. This magical sack weighed the same no matter how many items you put inside.
“It does have a limit,” she admitted. “And if you go over that limit, or if the bag gets punctured, then bad things can happen. Like everyone nearby getting sucked into the astral plane.”
Cundall, as keeper and distributor of loot, decided he would take the bag. He considered what would happen if he placed the bag over someone’s head and then deliberately punctured the bag. He imagined a surprised looking detached head floating by itself in the astral plane.
“What are you smiling at?” asked Zelda.
“Oh, nothing,” replied Cundall. “Let’s move along. Time’s a-wastin’ and I don’t want to leave Emule on his own any longer than I have to.”
The study also had a door that led to a huge, circular room adorned with tapestries. The party quickly identified that this room was a puzzle. The tapestries told the stories of the faeries of summer, winter, spring and autumn and the gifts they gave each other. In the room was also four pedestals, carved to look like the seasonal faeries, each of them holding a sculpture of the gifts depicted in the tapestries. Cundall, Zelda and Marie pondered the puzzle, while Minimus became quickly bored and looked behind the tapestries, considered opening another door to the room, went back to the door they had come through. Those trying to figure out the puzzle tried placing the sculpted items – a leaf, a snowflake, a rose and a bird – to the pedestals matching the fairies who had received the gifts. It still did not work and nothing happened. Cundall started acting out all the actions of the fairies on the tapestries, but halfway through the dance of the fairies caught the others smirking and quit in disgust. Minimus wandered over and casually glanced at the tapestries.
“Why not remove the snowflake one?” the halfling suggested. “The tapestry says the snowflake melted in the Summer Fairy’s hands.”
Cundall and Maire did an identical faceplam and the druid removed the snowflake sculpture, leaving the others in place. Nothing happened for a minute, then with a grating sound a small dais was elevated from the floor in the middle of the room, which opened to reveal a locked chest.
“Oooh, let me!” said Minimus, pulling out his lockpicks. He had been practicing back in Elventree on the days the party were relaxing or doing other things. His face was screwed up in comical concentration, but he was rewarded with a visible click, and the chest lid popped open. Inside was some coins, a gold bracelet, a pouch of precious gems, and a small box containing an old, blackened gold coin that Maire and Cundall could detect the presence of shadow magic.
“That’s the shade coin Elendil needs,” said Maire. She closed the lid of the coin box and pocketed it.
The next room turned out to be a dining hall, which could host a good number of people. The only people here were zombies, two hulking ogre zombies, some ex-villager zombies, and some undead that had so much flesh carved off them they were just skeletons.
The zombies closed while the skeletons used bows. Minimus used a table and chair as cover while he traded blows with the zombies. He threw his two daggers into vulnerable spots on the ogre zombies, limiting their movement towards him. Zelda fired arrow after arrow into the battle, while Marie used her damaging spells. Cundall saw this as a chance to shapechange into something that could help the party. He shifted into the form of a giant goat, and charged at one of the skeletons. It dissolved in a clatter of bones and sinew. Unfortunately this left him exposed and a long way from the protection of the party. One of the ogre zombies with one of Minimus’ thrown daggers in its knee could only hobble as far as Cundall and a massive club smashed into the goat. The remaining skeletons also damaged him, and so Cundall opted to reform his body back into human form, healing his body as he did so. He ducked under the table to avoid more damage, and threw things from his pack at the undead. The first was a vial of holy water which dissolved one of the skeletons, the next was a vial of acid which had the same effect and also splashed onto a nearby ogre zombie. He was considering a potion of fire breath next when Minimus, having destroyed the remaining zombies and one of the zombie ogres (with help from Zelda’s arrows and Marie’s spells) leaped up onto the long dining table that Cundall was hiding under and ran along its length, leaping off it while bringing his sword down in a vicious arc to stab into the chest of the remaining ogre zombie. It was about then Minimus took some acid damage from a second vial of acid thrown by Cundall from under the table. The halfling whirled angrily, wiping his skin.
“I mostly got them,” said Cundall, shrugging. “It was acceptable collateral damage.”
It was a long fight, but in the end the party were battered and sore, but all the undead had been put down. They decided to have a short rest in the room and bind their wounds. While resting, Cundall noticed two things. One was another – or maybe the same – homunculus up on a shelf. They tried talking to it, but the same irritated voice said that he was close to healing Lyonthal and had no time to talk to them. One of Zelda’s arrows saw it explode in a puff of dust and blood. The other thing Cundall noticed was that one of the frames around a painting on the wall appeared to be part of the wall, rather than separate from it. Intrigued, he looked at the painting – it was that of a lovely elven woman wearing a beautiful turquoise and ruby necklace, no doubt the famous Lyonthal, wife of Haedirn. After examining the painting, Cundall realised it was hinged and he swung it away from the wall like a door, revealing a space behind it that had a small chest. The chest was locked but was opened quickly with a knock spell (sadly it was too complicated a lock for Minimus to pick). Inside was the ruby and turquoise necklace that had been seen in the painting. Minimus whistled.
“That’ll be worth a bit of money,” he mused. There were also some coins and some rolled up pieces of paper that turned out to be love letters between Lyonthal and Haedirn. Perusing them indicated that occasionally they would foray into the Underdark, sometimes together, sometimes separately, to find spell components as well as alchemical and herbal ingredients for potions and poultices.
“They may both have picked up madness from the Underdark,” suggested Maire.
“He certainly sounded off his rocker speaking through that homonculy thing,” agreed Minimus.
“Let’s continue,” said Cundall, giving Chauntea an affectionate rub before placing her back into the basket behind his shield.
(to be continued..)