Week 13, Searching the House
We left our heroes at the beginning of their exploration of the house of Jacob Braithwaite, wealthy amateur occultist. We found a lot of muddy water and disordered paving in the basement. Before proceeding further, we decide to investigate the upper floors, so as to know what will be behind us if we have to retreat precipitately from the basement. We also send a telepathic invitation to Lorelei to join us, since if she loses contact, the time distortions might leave us separated for inconvenient periods. Also, we now have Harold Jones to protect the wounded Jonathan Goodhue.
While Lorelei makes her preparations and takes a cab, Alag performs a Retrocognition on the stairs from basement to kitchen. One of the treads is smashed, so it looks like something dramatic happened here recently. Sure enough, he gets a vision of trousered legs dashing up, followed by naked, deformed, taloned feet. The trousers don't belong to anyone we know, so far as Sophie's photographic memory can tell. It was the big bare feet that broke the stair.
We follow up the stairs and come out in the kitchen. Tom spots some scrape marks on the floor. These point out to the dining room, where the table has been knocked askew, toppling some candlesticks and chairs. Following this clue to the next room, Tom moves to open a pair of double doors, but retreats from a feeling of dread than wells out from the door. Beyond, he glimpsed nothing more alarming than a ballroom.
Using Second Sight, he projects through the door and finds the feeling of dread much diminished. Beyond, there is indeed a large ballroom, with lots of chairs lined up at the edges and a large rug in the middle. A stage stands at one end, set up for musicians. Nothing is obviously wrecked or wrong, but the nasty aura persists and shows up to Tom's Detect Psi skill.
He locates a chimney by Second Sight and clairvoyantly explores it. He follows it up, then down a connecting flue, where the brick work looks mangled. Following it down far enough, he finds the massive disorientation in the basement.
Dropping clairvoyance, Tom actually opens the ballroom door, with a return of the feeling of dread. He finds talon-marks on the inside, and a massive footprint on the rug, pointing out another set of doors.
People now have the feeling they are being watched. Those who can look for Second Sight viewpoints. Pfusand notes that the portraits on the walls seem to follow one with their eyes. One in particular is an 18th-century portrait of grim visage -- almost scowling, in fact, and a touch scared. Odd that anyone would keep it.
Alag TKs the rug back, to look for trapdoors or pentacles. He finds neither, but the floorboards in the middle are stressed and twisted, as if something had pushed up from underneath. Below lies the psychic disorientation.
Alag now probes at the nasty 18th-century portrait. He finds nothing more alarming than a wall behind it. But a little more probing shows him a secret passage, entered by a panel in the dining room wall. At one end is a ladder down (leading to distortion) and at the other end is a ladder up.
Lorelei arrives about now, so we put off exploring the secret passage to let her in through the kitchen door. We head upstairs. On the way, we find an over-toppled umbrella-stand and a ballroom chair hastily set to wedge a door.
Upstairs, we start a methodical, room-by-room search. One room looks like it has been searched with desperate haste, with men's clothes scattered about it. Lorelei notes bullet holes in the wall.
Nearby, we find a woman's room, also torn about, but more as if a fight happened in it instead of a ransacking. The bed is curtained. Inside, Tom finds shredded and bloody sheets. Sophie notes that some of the bed clothes are missing. (You'd have to be a native Victorian to notice that.) Used as wrapping paper, perhaps? The dressing table mirror is shattered.
Away down the corridor, we notice ceramic shards. We work our way down toward them. Several rooms show signs of occupancy, though we find no one and no bodies. Eventually, we come to a disused room. It contains a portrait of a man with a horse, the man's face very much hacked about by a knife. Not all the canvas is present. Chris tries some Second-Order Glamour to recreate it, but without much success.
We come to the ceramic fragments and find they were a bowl or a vase, smashed with the table they were standing on. Going on to the nearby room, we find it less lavishly appointed -- a servant's room perhaps. We also find a shoe standing on heel, sticking out behind a bed. This leads to the discovery of a man of late middle age -- the butler we presume -- quite dead and abnormally pale, even for a corpse. Lorelei probes but cannot find a cause of death. He wasn't drained of blood, because the blood is there, just not in his face. He doesn't look frightened to death, his face is too calm. He's just dead.
The next room looks like that of a female servant. It has been rifled, leaving a scattering of clothes and a very few coat-hangers.
Next, we find a bathroom, containing a bathtub in the grand Victorian manner. The tub contains a dead woman. She is not dressed as a maid, but the subdued fashion suggests a servant on her day off. She appears to have been drowned without violence.
Further down the hall, we find a room that seems to have had a mundane fight in it. Then a man's room that seems to have been very thoroughly searched. Alag finds what may have been the master bedroom suite, searched. Two more ransacked bedrooms, this time with the scrapes and cuts we expected.
Alag now settles down to use Retrocognition on several of the more interesting rooms. He finds:
One wing Alag examined by sheer clairvoyance. This does not include a sense of smell. But we catch a faint odor drifting from that direction. As we approach, curious, the smell starts to tickle memories. Then Tom starts to feel faint. We retreat hastily. It's gas, the common household methane gas so popular in this era. We were smelling a marker-odor like but not identical to the one we occasionally ran into in New York, 20th century, home line.
Chris starts up his Alchemy and goes forward. (No sudden oxidations here please.) He finds the room with the open gas jets, turns them off, and opens the windows. The room looks otherwise undisturbed.
Alag now turns his clairvoyance on the attic. Amid many boxes, he makes a disturbing discovery -- a demon. Just a little one, but definitely a demon, crouched motionless behind a packing case. It has a grimace on its face and seems to be watching for something. Alag goes to the attic stairs and bangs on the door while watching clairvoyantly. No reaction.
Gingerly, Lorelei probes at the thing's innards to see if it's dead. Well, nothing much is going on inside it, on the other hand, the insides aren't even remotely manlike, so it's not clear we know any more than we did before. Alag can feel a complex psi residue about the thing, but no active psi.
What to do? We don't want to confront the thing. We'd like to set magical triggers on it, but that involves getting in eyeshot. Alag climbs to the attic window. He still can't see the thing, but he creates a blue ectoplastic spider and guides it over to the demon by telepathy and clairvoyance. The spider then lays down a circle of ectoplastic silk. We can check on the state of the silk if we should glance up and find the demon gone. Chris puts a trigger on the door. Sophie resolutely ignores the whole business with the ectoplastic creatures, of which she disapproves.
That "settled," we go back down stairs to finish up the ground floor. We find some scratches here and there, and a game room with a milder case of the dreads we found in the ballroom. It had a fight in it -- smashed furniture and pool cues, and a sword-cane stuck in the wall, into a patch of slime like unto the patch we found back in Carlfax Abbey. Alag Retros on this and gets:
Choppy camera-work. Door bursts open. Man enters with two canes, tosses one aside and pulls the sword from the other. The big demon from the basement enters. The fight happens. Furniture and the man get tossed about. He loses the sword, regains it. He impales the demon to the wall. It melts.
They're mortal! What heartening news! Especially with our little goomer waiting upstairs. Tom examines the sword cane. It is silver-plated steel, very sharp, with two inscriptions. One is stamped, one cut. The cut inscription reads merely, "To G. D. B. 1763" The stamped inscription is in exotic curlicues, and may be a design, not writing at all.
We find nothing else in that wing except some ransacking and a bit of damaged flooring. The other wing contains more service rooms and servant quarters. Nothing much here but more bits of ransacking. We are almost done when we notice an area that we should have walked through by now but haven't.
Alag X-rays through the wall and finds the hidden room that the hidden passage led to. (It really doesn't do to forget about hidden passages.) This room has seen an extraordinary fire. It WAS a library, but now the books are ashes, the furniture is charred, and there are bits of melted metal on the blackened desk. The entrance is through a (slightly discolored) panel in a small parlor. Alag's Retrocognition finds nothing but flames, and the news that this happened last night.
The burned secret library has a trapdoor in its ceiling. This leads over and down and through to the secret passage that comes out in the ballroom. Chris scans straight up and finds a secret room we missed on the upper floor, a bedroom, small but elegant. It contains mundane correspondence on the desk for "Jacob" and nothing else of interest.
Now for the basement.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.