Following a bittersweet but brief return to the center ring under the hightop, Trevor and his companions regroup and depart the festival...and Trevor's nemesis Veronica finally gets what's coming to her.
The festival-goers had already enjoyed picking over the unconscious fellows lying about where Kull had left them so there was, alas, no coinage to be garnered. A light drizzle began to fall and we were ready to turn in for the night. But Katherine had other ideas. With a certain fire in her eyes she insisted that now was the moment to explore the secrets of the crypts beneath the old mansion. I thought she was mad. Magnificent, yes, but mad all the same. The others agreed, oddly preferring a cold crypt to a warm bed. Well, if everyone else was going mad I might as well join them. And so we returned once again to the mansion of the Natals.
We slipped past the guards at the gate out front and came across the shifty servant Kevin busy in the kitchen. He was preparing some unidentified meat as a roast. The viand's parentage was indeterminate. It was larger than a cat and none of the horses were missing, but beyond that I could only speculate. Kull grabbed himself a ham hock and munched as we moved towards the cellars. Katherine handed me her magic shortsword which the loremaster at the carnival had said would glow in the presence of undead. I have a firm personal habit of not using swords. If swordplay is necessary I'll cut someone in for a share of the loot. But as a magical detector of things unliving it would be quite useful.
My first look at the crypt was a bit underwhelming. It was pentagonal, with five stone coffins in the center and niches in the stone walls filled with rather rather disrespectful piles of bones. The floor was under about three feet of water which apparently bubbled up from a large jagged hole in the floor. Other than that there was little of note. I held out the magic sword but it apparently detected nothing unliving. However, one of the coffin lids was askew. I peered at the name: Miranda. If memory served, that was the name of the woman betrayed as a witch ten years before by the now-deceased owner of the house, Remi Natal. This was curious. As we understood the tale, Remi was married but had dallied with Miranda and then later betrayed her and she was burned alive. Why was her name on a coffin in his family crypt? Every exploration into this place revealed yet another peculiar secret.
Katherine seemed a bit disappointed as well, but undaunted she essayed another bit of magic. She wove a spell to detect concealed doors--and it worked! Clearly my K was coming into her own as a weaver of the wyrd. I felt quite proud of her. We opened the door and found yet another chamber of witchery! The room was hexagonal like the one in the secret attic upstairs. The house literally had black magic from top to bottom. In the center was a dais with a statue of a woman lying on her back with her arms crossed on her chest. Around the dais was a magickal pentagram drawn on the floor with black candles placed alight at each point.
I was about to urge caution but Brute and Boomtock surged ahead to investigate. As they crossed the pentagram, arcane forces were unleashed. The room shook and glowing red runes appeared on the walls. A spell took hold of the two and both were drained of vital energies. They staggered, blood running down from their eyes. The "statue" on the dais, apparently having received the energies drained from the two, arose and advanced. A wild melee broke out as we attempted to stop it and in the confusion Uhmri also stepped on the pentagram and was drained. Katherine, caring as always, dragged Uhmri out into the main crypt room and attempted to revive him. As the battle raged around the statue behind me I was annoyed to see Uhmri looking quite pleased by Katherine's attentions. The cad was obviously faking serious injury again just to elicit the tender therapies of my K! Finally Brute and Kull were able to knock the statue over and shove it into the jagged hole in the floor. I used Read Magic on glowing runes on the walls and made out something about life transference to the statue. Apparently if statue absorbed the life energies of three persons the woman depicted would return to life. I wondered suspected the statue was of the murdered witch Miranda. There was no telling where that gap in the floor might lead and I worried that we had not seen the last of the woman of stone.
Back upstairs, Kevin had prepared dinner with the mystery meat and, suspiciously, drawn a bath for Katherine. The fellow becomes more creepy and insolent by the day. We certainly will not be taking him to the summer house when we retire. Katherine, naturally, refused it all. K, Brute, and I left and returned to the inn where we now had rooms. I certainly did not want to spend another night in a mansion full of witchcraft. Uhmri, the gnome, and Kull elected to remain although I could not fathom why.
As we departed, Brute noticed that the town guards previously posted out front were missing. Back at the inn I cleaned up with a deft application of prestidigitation and prepared for bed. I decided to have another look at the bits of magical jewelry I'd found in the upstairs hex room in the mansion. Handling the velvet bag I was pleasantly surprised to find a fifth ring like the four which matched the mirror portals hidden in the thick folds. This one had a green gem. Clearly there was at least one more secret do be discovered. I also took advantage of the privacy of my chamber to try on the magical "ladies' pectoral enhancement" nipple clips. The effect was profound and most amusing. I reckoned that it would be extremely useful should I need to disguise myself as a woman.
The next morning I had a proper breakfast at the inn--a refreshing changed from the revolting porridge-like substance which Kevin had been foisting on us. K wanted to check on the injured woman we'd rescued from the secret dungeon in the mansion and so the three of us went to the Temple of Law and Order. Normally I avoid the place but visiting there in the company of a priestess of from the Temple of Light might be useful in establishing a character reference with them. On the other hand, visiting there in the company of a mercenary looking odd-fellow might have the opposite effect. We arrived to find a wagon out front containing two grievously injured L&O paladins. The pair of unfortunates seemed to have most of their blood on the outside of their bodies. We learned that they were wounded fighting the goblins up north. A farmer had found them and brought them back in; he told a wild rumor that the goblins had an unbeatable leader of some sort. Inside, the L&Os suggested to Katherine that with all their wounded coming back from up north she needed to move our injured woman to her temple. Another "shiny" was summoned and K worked out an arrangement with him.
That done we went to the mansion to meet our companions. Out front the town guards were still missing--instead we beheld a rather gruesome sight. One of the strange clansmen who had fought with Kull at the carnival the night before was impaled dead on the iron railings atop the wall! How tragic, I thought, do die so publicly in so tacky an outfit. His spirit was likely to return and haunt a nearby tailor's shop in despair. Inside we found several more clansmen bruised and bloody in their unfashionable attire. A group of them had attempted to attack Uhmri the night before, then returned to resume the assault at breakfast. It was a bad plan and this time several would not live to tell the tale.
After some discussion we decided to move up our plans to depart the shining jewel of culture named Adan and go north to meet our destiny. We had just loaded the wagon and saddled our horses when Veronica again showed up. By the gods, did the woman really have nothing better to occupy her than to stalk me throughout the city! She began to berate me in typical fashion, but this time Brute intervened. Always a master of the direct approach, he simply threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried her off. He was gone for a longer time than we expected and reappeared looking slightly smug. He later explained that Veronica had rather enjoyed being carried off in rough fashion. She had offered him a quick tumble and he'd accepted. That was certainly not what I had expected but I was secretly quite pleased. Perhaps now V's attentions were finally transferred elsewhere.