Northwest of Malkara, Shoreline Manor has stood empty for a long time, its ancient stones once home to warriors, lords, and mages. Now far from the sea, it's said the northern shore once lapped at its gates. While the upper halls have been rebuilt and replaced many times over generations, it is built on old stones. In addition to its ten bedrooms and the master's quarters, it boasts a wing for servants, a mouldering library, and a large kitchen. Scattered over the grounds lay an old barn, a mostly collapsed stable, a graveyard full of former residents, and near the wall, a small pond with a spring. Exploration of the areas beneath the house find many small chambers, perhaps once laboratories or dungeons, all of their equipment long fallen to ruin. After the skylight incident, the only unbroken pane of glass in the entire manor is the tall mirror in the upstairs hall. But no matter what angle you look at it from, it never shows your reflection.
The old house has known many names and many masters, but it will be a long road to restore it to its former glory. A fixer upper, Iskandar said. Seven tasks will do to make it livable, though.
The Bloodstained Aerie
The harpy made her home in the solar, entering and leaving through the large shattered windows, and dragging her prey back to her roost for slaughter. The room is filled with slashed cushions, mold, and the detritus left by a carnivore with a rapacious appetite. The stink of blood and rotting flesh fills the nearby halls and kitchen. The manor must be rid of this filth. A diligent hero might roll up their sleeves and apply some elbow grease to the room to clean it out, though they may contract an illness doing so. An affluent hero might forgo doing the work themselves, and spend twenty gold pieces to hire a cleaning crew from Malkara, though the cleaners will almost certainly take their tale back to town.
Narcel'Uss tours the manor, making little noises of disapproval at each new disappointment. As she throws open the doors of the solar, she creates a wide stance with her legs and plants her hands on her hips as she surveys the room through slit eyes. It is obvious this room was the lair of the harpy... feathers, bird droppings and decaying remains are scattered throughout the once handsome solar. She looks back reflectively, thinking of Bird Girl and her crazed reaction to her winged adversary. This room might be an unwelcome reminder of her fight and may trigger something within her companion again. With a turn of her heel, Narcel'Uss disappears and returns moments later with a few assorted supplies. She is wearing some of Ildan's old gloves, her mouth and nose is covered by a tied piece of cloth and she also is carrying some dusty curtains (ripped down from some shattered windows) and a broom. She shoves her head out the door, looks furtively both ways before closing the doors. No one can see her like this. She sets to the laborious task of completely gutting the room. She drags everything she can into the fireplace... cushions, bones, rotting flesh, drapery... and sets to magically blasting it to ash. She sweeps the ashes into the old curtains, which are laid flat on the floor, and begins again. Eventually, there is nothing left but a tied bag of ashes. The job is almost done. Narcel'Uss summons the power of thunder and gives the room a good blast. What is left of the shattered windows is completely blasted away and any leftover ash or smell is blasted out of the open windows. The room is now a blank slate, empty and fairly clean except for some ash. The smell left is of fire and smoke. Narcel'Uss heaves the bag out the window, to be dealt with later and also throws the gloves and rags out too. She encounters Ildan on the way back down. "Hey, did you hear a boom?", he catches her arm. She looks at him through narrow eyes, "Get your ears checked Ildan"...
The Hollow Pit
Something is living in the cistern. You can hear it moving from time to time, and you're pretty sure it comes out at night, its dripping shape stalking the grounds. It seems that some of the sorceress's beasts still remain. In order for the house to be safe, it must be dealt with. A martial hero might fight the beast, killing it or driving it away for good, though fighting the beast at night could result in grievous wounds. A cunning hero might prefer to seal the cistern, trapping the creature inside until it dies, though its struggles may damage the cistern itself.“Jeremy, why does the drinking water taste like seafood?”
“Ah, that’th becauthe the Mithtreth had a giant thubteranean crab. And ah, well, it needed thomeplace dark, cool, and wet to live. Tho the Mithtreth put it in the thithtern. It cometh out to thcavenge for tathety morthelth when the night ith darketht.”
Dorian grimaced and wiped his face. “In the thithtern, I mean cistern, eh? Well, that’s simply unacceptable and unsanitary, wouldn’t you say?”
“I probably shouldn’t, thir.”
Dorian leaned away from the spray. “No, you definitely shouldn’t.” He heaved a sigh. “All right, so how do I get rid of it?”
“I haven’t the foggietht, thir.”
“I guess I’ll ask our resident sailor.” Dorian went to look for Ren.
- - - - - -
“There you are! Ren, how would you get rid of a crab?”
“Wouldn’t. I’d eat it.”
“I should have seen that coming. But what if the crab was as big as a wagon?”
“Throw a party. Feed everyone.”
“Yes, yes, fine, but how would you kill said massive crab?”
“Harpoon. Or smash it.”
“Hm. I don’t have -- nor do I know how to use -- a harpoon. What could we use to smash it? Do you think one of those gargoyles on the roof would be heavy enough to smash it?”
Ren pondered briefly, then shrugged. “I’d have to see it.”
“All right. Will you join me tonight to see if we can glimpse this crab?”
Ren raised a skeptical eyebrow, frowning slightly.
“How about this: If you help me figure out what to do about the crab, you can prepare whatever kind of crab bake you like once it’s dead.”
Ren grinned and nodded.
- - - - - -
“No no, rabbit goes round the tree, then back in its hole,” whispered Ren.
“That’s what I did!” Dorian hissed.
Ren tugged one end of the short length of cord in Dorian’s hands. Dorian’s knot unraveled. He growled under his breath and began trying to retie the knot, muttering, “of course I can’t get it right in the dark.”
“Keep trying,” Ren whispered, unperturbed. “Might save your life one day.”
There was a clicking sound somewhere off in front of them; they both immediately froze. They craned their necks over the concealing bush to see a dark shape rising up out of the mouth of the cistern. It scuttled sideways across the lawn, surprisingly quiet for something the size of a small wagon. It was just an indistinguishable lump of shadow until the moon shone through a break in the clouds.
Ren stifled a sharp intake of breath and dropped back down behind the bush. Dorian hurriedly followed. “What is it?” he hissed. Ren held a finger to her lips and began moving back to the manor, low and quiet. Dorian slipped after her.
- - - - - -
Ren refused to speak until they were standing in front of the kitchen hearth. “Cave fisher,” was all she said.
Dorian’s brows furrowed. When she didn’t elaborate, he asked, “so that’s bad?”
Ren’s head whipped around to stare at him, surprised. Then realization dawned. “Oh right. City boy. Yes, very bad. Fast, strong, good climber, long tongue it uses to reel in prey, huge pincers to tear it apart.”
Dorian grimaced. “Ah. Very bad.”
Ren continued to stare into the fire. Dorian paced and pondered, his brow furrowed in thought. Then a sly grin spread over his face. “Well, if it’s strong, we’ll just have to be clever.”
- - - - - -
“What in the nine hells was I thinking?” Dorian asked himself for perhaps the hundredth time. Chill dew seeped through his pants where he knelt in the grass. Despite the chill, sweat trickled down his sides.
All of the sudden the cave fisher was there, a lumpy shadow in the grass some fifty feet away. Dorian sprang to his feet. The cave fisher tensed; it had seen him. Dorian bolted. “At least the moon is out,” he thought, “so I can see where I’m going.” He didn’t bother looking back. He could hear many legs rushing through the grass behind him. He sprinted through the archway leading to the rear gardens.
The giant crab pulled up short just through the archway. There was its prey, frozen in terror against a wall. It lashed out with 25 feet of tongue wrapping around… no! Its tongue struck a hard surface, which shattered, and the prey disappeared.
Dorian didn’t dare breathe. He was pressed against the inside of the archway, not five feet to the right of the beast. The bullseye lantern at his feet gave a sputtering pop.
The crab leapt straight up and came down facing the lantern… and spotted Dorian.
“REN!” Dorian screamed (perhaps a little more shrilly than he had intended), and kicked at the lantern. It fell over and went out.
The cave fisher lunged forward, both pincers open wide. Dorian sidestepped one, but the other latched onto his leg.
Over the sound of his own scream of pain, Dorian could just make out a grinding noise from over head. Then there was a loud crack mixed with a wet squishing sound. Dorian felt the crab jerk and then release him.
“Dorian?” Ren’s worried voice drifted down from the top of the arch.
Dorian took a deep breath to steady his voice before he replied. “I’m okay. You got it.”
Ren let out an exultant shout.
- - - - - -
Narcel’Uss poked at the crab meat on her plate, her lip curled in a slight sneer.
“What’s the matter, don’t like crab meat?” asked Dorian.
“Cave fisher was considered a feast day delicacy among my people.”
“Isn’t a delicacy usually a good thing?”
Narcel’Uss stared levelly at Dorian for a long moment. “I understand some humans consider deep fried bull testicles a delicacy.”
Dorian’s face wrinkled in disgust at the thought. “Point taken.”
He looked around at the rest of the TIPers. They all seemed to be enjoying their baked crab.
“Where did you find the mirror?” asked Narcel’Uss.
“It was in the dressing room off the master bedroom. I guess no body had bothered to go break everything in there on account of the creepy bloody children’s handprints. But once it was cleared out, I explored a bit and found the mirror.”
“And the lantern cast light on you so you would cast a reflection in the mirror.”
“Exactly. I once saw a magician use that trick to make an elephant disappear.”
“But… why did you kick over the lantern?”
“So it wouldn’t see me.”
Narcel’Uss barked out a surprised, derisive laugh. “You do know it’s called a CAVE fisher, right? You must have known it could see in the dark.”
Dorian hunched low over his plate, his cheeks heating. Narcel’Uss began to laugh in earnest.
The Vault of Tomes
The door to the library is sealed with powerful wards. No amount of pulling or kicking will open it, and attempts to pick the lock are entirely in vain. It is inaccessible to anyone who cannot reach it from the outside. A mystically inclined hero might use their knowledge of Arcana to dispel the ward, though it could cost them some power to do so. A smart hero find another way inside and deduce the passphrase to the wards, making them able to command their power, though such considerable efforts could fatigue them in days to come.
Birdgirl hasn't been happy at the Manor, every time she tries to perch somewhere, the wood splinters or the wall crumbles. She has found little rest and most days spends the equivalent of "pacing" across the roof (or along the highest ceiling indoors when it rains). Every few days she has taken to moving some of the small carved gargoyles that adorn the corners of the house and leaving them in strange places. They have been found peeking through bushes, at the bottom of a drained well, and once at the foot of Ildan's bed while he slept.
There is one larger gargoyle that sits outside and faces the long lost sea, this one in particular has been her obsession for the past few days. Its feet have eroded away and its left wing is broken off also an arm that likely pointed towards a distant shoreline. In this broken profile space, Birdgirl can sit but has little room to get comfortable. The gargoyle is seated perfectly with its back to an oddly angled alcove that Birdgirl presumes would make the perfect nesting spot if she could get to it. She's been working slowly, chipping away at the dust and rubble that has collected over the years, and slowly levering the gargoyle away from the wall.
As she works at this task for a several days, the ancient stone is finally about to give way, inching towards a plummeting demise. There was now just enough room for Birdgirl to squeeze behind the statue, lean into the angled alcove wall with her back, and push forward with her mighty legs. It takes some doing but the stone beast shifts, and with another great push Birdgirl's legs feel the stone slip the ledge. Unfortunately, at the exact moment, with her mighty push, Birdgirl's back pushes through the alcove wall and down she tumbles down though a passage too narrow to right herself in. She lands with a mighty crash at about the same time the stone gargoyle hits the ground outside. Should anyone else been startled, the surely would have found the broken statue outside and thought nothing more of the incident than another destructive incident by the bird who has fled the scene.
Birdgirl awakes some time later to find herself tangled among the dusty sheets and shattered furniture that, somewhat, broke her fall. She climbs from rubble and shakes the dust from her feathers. No major damage done, but in stretching her wings they are quite sore and she seems unable to lift off the ground without pain. In growing frustration she kicks at the rubble, squawking in annoyance. It's then she notices she's kicked over a shiny object, something like a polished shield or giant serving tray, and it's caught the edge of the light that is coming down from the narrow stone vent that she'd fallen through. It comes to her attention that this faint beam is the only light in the room. In more of an act of child like curiosity rather than cleverness, Birdgirl picks up the shiny plate and plays with the light bouncing off it. She giggles as she plays with angling the light across the room. She can faintly see walls of books, possibly large paintings around the room, but nothing in detail in the low beam of light.
Clearly enjoying her new toy, she's honestly startled when she manages to catch her light beam at the edge of another shiny plate and the light seems to flash around the entirety of the room. She's startled enough to drop the plate and the room is once again plunged into darkness. She finds the plate again, and moves it to slowly reflect her light beam to the second plate. When she does the light bounces around the room across several plates and seems to impossibly grow brighter. The room is fully illuminated and Birdgirl giggles with delight. At her feet she finds what could have been the stand for her plate, but now broken in the fall, she instead makeshifts a busted chair to hold her plate in place. The room is awash in a warm, pleasant, and clearly magical glow.
Birdgirl is in awe of her surroundings. She dances around the room with all the books and trinkets. Forgetting her injury she attempts to fly to the top of one of the shelves only to stumble and crash into a suit of ancient armor. Much like a child, her fun is suddenly over, and she decides its time to leave. While finding the door is easy in the light now, opening it seems impossible. While she recognizes the magic lock, she has no skills to deal with it. For some time she sits and pouts, playing with the only spell she knows, conjuring magic pomegranate seeds that satiate her hunger but do nothing for the locked door. By now the light of day is fading, and so is the light coming from the stone vent. As its light vanishes with nightfall outside, the magic light bouncing across the plates remains for quite a long time. Late into the evening, with no way to light the candles she finds in the room, Birdgirl can do nothing more than accept the final darkness, she curls up and finally sleeps through the night in pure darkness.
The morning light is pink and soft as it dances around the room. Birdgirl gently wakes with it and marvels at the dancing colours. Stretching her wings, they are still sore and unable to lift her. Checking the door, it's still magically locked. She resolves herself that until she is strong enough to fly up to the light shaft and make her way out, she's stuck here. So, she spends the next few days tidying the room, and making a nest out of tapestries in the far corner of the room where she has the best view of the dancing lights. It's in this time that she sees a child's toy, a stuffed drake sitting high on one of the bookshelves. Determined to have it, but unable to fly, she climbs the bookcase rather ungracefully, knocking books off as she goes. She obtains her prize and spends some time admiring the seemingly jeweled eyes of the stuffed toy drake before setting about picking up her mess. With no regard for their age or value, she "dusts" each book by shaking it vigorously as she picks them up from the floor. More than one book breaks apart in this way, but one book in particular doesn't want to open. Curious, Birdgirl tries to pry the covers apart but it will not budge. Perhaps to figure something out from the cover she brings the book over into the shaft of light coming down in the middle of the room. As soon as the light touches the cover the book, the illusion is broken and a key and a slip of paper is left in it's place. Birdgirl is again rather delighted at the magic that's given her a new shiny trinket, and possibly a way out.
Sure enough, the key fits, and turns, but the door is still sealed with magic. Birdgirl thumps to the ground in another pout and starts to examine the paper that came with the key. She turns it around and around to look at it from different angles. Even she is sure that this is somehow connected to the door's magic lock, but it means nothing to her. In frustration she leaves the paper on the ground and beats her wings as she stomps away from the door. The paper is caught by the air of her wings and slips quietly and unnoticed under the door through to the other side.
It's a few days more before someone on the other side takes notice of the library door again, this time finding a strange note caught under a vase that sits on the floor nearby. Through some great team work and a lot of arguing, Narcel’Uss is the one that manages to break the code and dispel the lock. In the early morning, with great anticipation, the group is together as the doors unlock and are cast open into the great library hall. To their amazement the room is bathed in a beautiful light, and they find a half sleeping Birdgirl, curled up in a pile of books and torn tapestries in the far corner of the room. They are all rather perplexed as Birdgirl jumps from her bedding with a joyous noise, and skips past them clutching a stuffed drake toy, whistling a happy tune that she's finally found a home.
The Leeching Lawn
The patch of cursed grass has been growing for years, now covering a good portion of the front lawn. The blades are blackened and gnarled, tugging gently at the feet of any who walk over it. Who knows what will happen if the curse spreads to the ivy that climbs the manor. A hero who's a healer might expend some power to perform a cleansing ritual on the area, removing the curse. A more direct hero might dig up the offending plants and put them to the torch, though handling cursed flora comes with risks of its own.
J, in touring the grounds, comes across the patch of needy foliage and spends a little while investigating the plant; She drops an assortment of things into the patch of grass, observing its behaviour and reactions. She concludes that the area is probably affected by some lingering curse, and opts to cleanse the area. When she touches the ground to impart the effects of a healing spell, the dark grass begins to wither away in a patch that radiates from her touch. Though the surrounding plantlife seems untouched, J surmises that the grass will probably never grow healthy again in that blight now covered in the withered and dry remains of the cursed plants.
As Above, So Below
The roof of the mansion has seen better days. It's collapsed in a number of spots, exposing the halls and attics to rain and rot, and creating hallways full of debris. While fixing all of the roofs will be a larger endeavour, clearing the halls will make the manor vastly more navigable. A strong hero might carry the heavy slate and bits of beams outside, while a more magically enabled hero might whisk them away with a Mage Hand or another movement spell.
The Widow in the Dark
There's a woman in the root cellar. It's hard to say how long she's been there. She's well-preserved but not very talkative, hanging as she does from her noose. The body has elven features and still wears a bit of jewelry, but could have been down here for decades. Naturally, it must be removed before the kitchen can be fully used, but disposing of a suicide improperly could result in a vicious haunting. A hero versed in rites might cleanse her body and dispose of it, while a hero who prefers research might search through the rotted records to find out her past, and put her to rest in the right spot in the graveyard.
The Last Laugh
The sorceress was not the first villain to dwell here. The house remembers its occupants, and sometimes the stains they leave are terrible. No amount of scrubbing will wipe away the small, bloody handprints on the walls and doorjambs of the master bedroom. The dreams of anyone sleeping there or in the rooms around it are haunted by the weeping of children and the booming laugh of the tormentor who stripped their skins for power. The power has long passed, but the deeds remain. A stalwart hero might stand vigil, letting those deeds settle on their shoulders and taking the weight from the room. An ambitious hero might notice that their own blood cleans up those handprints just fine, and once it has, the dreams become bearable for them, even peaceful.
After locating the mansion's wine cellar, Ildan weaves off to find a room suitable for a drunken nap. He wanders the halls, taking a chug now and again from an almost-empty wine bottle and whistling to himself. He almost passes the master bedroom. A couple paces past its doors, his whistling stops and he steps backwards to do a double-take at its grandeur. He steps in and turns around, chugging the last of the wine. Though dusty, the room contains many trinkets and fancy furnishings. Ildan closely inspects a candelabra that looks to be made of real silver. This could fetch a pretty price on the market. When he reaches out to inspect it, he accidentally slices the meaty part of his thumb across a sharp edge of the metal. Ildan curses and backs up. His bloody hand hits the wall and smears across it. It leaves a streak of his blood, which just happens to cover some much older hand prints. As they mix, both fade from the wall, which is lost on Ildan as he wraps his hand in cloth. Muttering, he closes the door, blood soaking through the bandage and also mixing with more of the old blood on the doorjambs, which fades as well. Injury forgotten, he flops on the bed and is snoring within minutes.... BOOM! A loud blast wakes him from his snooze. Narcel'Uss! He runs out of the room to look for her. As his mind wakes more fully, he remembers bits of a pleasant dream, but the details elude him.