He’s not stupid, but he is uncomplicated. It also moves the game along briskly. This party doesn’t have any “You go!”, “No – you go!”. Durak just goes. Why? ‘Cause he’s a paladin. Opening the door and stepping through is why we came down here.
Rocky (his earth elemental familiar) is a potential game wrecker, especially down in cellars. We are handling it by him being stupid and lacking initiative. He has Int 4 and is an alien – he can’t describe what’s in a room in useful terms. And although he does have decent Wisdom, I suppose here on prime he relies on being told what to fight because he’s unfamiliar with the place. The tremorsense, however, is handy and doesn’t give too much away – no more than a really good perception check.
Less than a year is not sufficient time to cease finding strange the human habit of building homes where the “floor” is a wooden platform suspended in the air. The elves, at least, use living trees. I can respect a tree – you know it is going to be around a decent time.
I would guess the reason for living in “houses” it is that they are quick to construct – humans being a short-lived race. The orcs, being even shorter-lived, make tents of stick and hide so it all makes sense. A habitation made of dead wood cannot stand for more than decades, but the humans live their lives quickly – should a house fall or burn, they will build another just like it in its place. The humans, then, are no less practical than we, it is just that the facts of their lives make what is practical for them different from what is practical for us.
But the subject of houses brings us to that of haunted houses. Which is where we spent yesterday.
Clues lead us to the abandoned home of a local noble family. We searched the bottom floor, discovering it to be haunted indeed. Various apparitions appeared and attacked us – a Manticore, an animated scarf, a piano, and from the floor above us the sound of weeping. Each manifestation telling us something of the tale of what lived here.
The ground floor more-or-less explored, we opted to go down, rather than up. I called Rocky to assist us.
The cellar was – a cellar. Cold storage for food, a wine room (which we regrettably destroyed. Not that I am usually a wine drinker, but some of the vintages would have fetched a good price.). We were attacked by swarms of rats and eventually came to a strong door, warded by an excellent lock. Reasoning that if there were still a key, it would be above, we resolved to search the upper rooms of the house.
There were more haunts above, telling the tale of an unhappy marriage, a murder, a picture of a man with an odd puzzle-box. We found the key (or, what Zoran juded to very likely be the key) in a study. But we passed a door from which the sound of weeping was loudest. We opened it.
Within was a spirit, an unquiet dead, cowering away from a mirror. She was clearly the shade of the murdered wife, and did not respond to our questions. As we discussed what to do – I was keen to look into the mirror – the summoner Victora said “civilised people often cover mirrors when there has been a death” (which I hope was not an insult directed at me). The taller of our party threw a sheet over the mirror, and the spirit rose and proceeded to walk through the house, heading for the lower floor.
We followed. The spirit went to a room with a great bloodstain on the floor, and began tearing at the floorboards. We assisted it, and opened a hole to a hidden room below in the cellars. In that room was an old dry well, and the spirit went down into it. We followed – Bahlek looking a little green for some reason.
Below was a natural limestone cave (probably carved by water, if I am any judge). We were attacked by ghouls, and prevailed thanks to Victoria’s earth elementals.
Catching up to the ghost, it was tearing at a door (ghosts often dont realise that they are ghosts, and act as they would in life). We assisted.
Within was an expensively dressed undead. On a bench behind – a ruined puzzle box. It addressed Aeona, and the ghost of his murdered wife (for surely it was they) attacked. He called out in the local language – Zoran telling us that he had called for help. Our casters retreated outside, and we fought the undead, the ghost assisting. More than assisting, really. In truth, we barely put a scratch on it.
The casters heading outside was a mistake, for more ghouls came from that direction. We were split in two. Had I known how badly they fared out there, I would not have stayed in the smaller chamber to ineffectively swing at the ghoul. But it seemed to me that my place was to help deal with the greater evil.
Eventually, the ghost prevailed. The noble was dead, and with his death the ghost dissolved, its geas accomplished. Our casters inspected the ruined puzzle box, and decided that it was likely meant to be a phylactery for a lich. Thus was all explained – this noble was a caster attempting to secure undeath for himself by becoming a lich. He murdered his own wife, and who knows how many others, to secure sucess. It is well that we intervened. Such a great evil would have been worth out very lives to forestall.
We found a letter from a party in Magnimar. It seemed to indicate that someone was offering this evil man assistance, spoke of a “Sihedron ritual” – this being the seven-pointed star that we keep encountering associated with the ancient runelords of Thessalay. The letter indicated that there were to be seven ritual murders in all – I am not sure that we stopped them all.
I shall go from here to Magnamar, then, and bring this person to account. The other four heroes of Sandpoint – each for reasons of their own – have made the same choice, which is very well. We remain a party of five, then, and traveling with these four comrades who I have come to know and rely on eases my spirit considerably.
We attempted to fire the house when we were done. But even with fire elementals, the place would not catch. There is older evil here, I think, beyond our power to cleanse. All we can do is inform the church.
But this is all background. The question with which I must wrestle is: ought I to have attacked that ghost, the spirit of the wife, when I saw her rather than helping her?
Torag revealed to me that the apparition was evil. And that her aid probably made the difference in slaying the greater evil below is in no wise. After all – she might have joined with that evil and made it more powerful, so far as I could have known at the time. And although that did not happen, although we accomplished a much greater good, yet I assisted her accomplish her evil goal, which was to do murderous revenge on her husband. I helped her succeed in this act, I cannot escape my complicity and guilt in this respect.
Why did I do it? What were my motives at the time?
First, cool calculation. I judged that the murder of the wife by her husband was central to the riddle of that house, that the matter was best concluded, and that this spirit would lead us to the heart of the mystery. I was resolved that this spirit must be dealt with, one way or another, but the better way to do it was to permit her to reveal her story rather than simply attempting to kill a ghost with weapons (a tricky prospect, even with magic). It transpired that I was right – but that matters not. It is true that I took a risk, but every choice was risky.
Second, pity. This woman, in life, had been murdered by her husband. Can there be any keener betrayal? Yes, the evil spirits of the undead feign distress to lure noble fools to their doom. But still. Even a heart turning to stone can know pity. And I knew something of her story – there was adequate reason to belive the spirit was not feigning its fear.
It would have been simpler to simply charge in and attempt to hammer that spirit into oblivion. My conscience would be happily clear. And we would be slain by the undead below, Aeona subject to a terrible fate, and in all possibility a lich loosed upon the world.
No, I must content myself with this. My goal was to bring the evil of this house to an end. I acted as I did – following that ghost and assisting it – for that reason. That we succeeded in large part is a great comfort, but my hands are not clean.