Wizardquest Chapter 16: A Cold Night at the House on the Hill Pt.1

You wake up once in the middle of the night to see Blake sharpening his sword while Veronica talks softly about something but otherwise you wake up in the morning feeling pretty damn good. Which is a first for you to be honest. The camp breaks up pretty routinely and even Saya pitches in. Harmony offers to help with things but everyone sort of finds excuses for her not to. Apparently you weren’t the only one to notice her hand skills.

You set off on the road, feeling the chill around you as the trees become more piney and sparse. The road ahead is a little rough and seems quite old and overgrown, obviously not used much these days. Overall it’s really quite quiet,which always scares you. You shiver and shake some, receding into your cloak at the biting wind around you and everyone but Tabitha seems to feel the cold fairly acutely. You seriously consider making a pair of warm underwear for yourself. Ah, well, at least Saya seems pretty okay with the weather. You probably couldn’t stand to see her cold.

You look across the wagon to see Veronica give little sidelong glances at Saya while she polishes her mace. She doesn’t really have any malicious intent or anything, but you feel like those looks are not really happy looks and you begin to get up and question her when you hear a distant blaring sound.

The wagon stops abruptly and everyone looks around oddly whole getting their weapons prepared and ready. You hear a thundering sound off in the distance as well, approaching from all sides. You narrow your eyes, trying to think about what this was… It was very regular, very familiar like…

“Reindeer-girls” Shouts Blake as he stands and draws his blade. You blink as the other begin to get ready to pile out but in mere moments the monsters were on top of you, circling your wagon while blaring on a trumpet. You had no idea how many were put there but Blake had a serious expression on his face as he tracked the assailants while they made a circle around your wagon. From your vantage you could see that a few had spears, the others very wicked looking bows. You did not relish being shot again and did not make any rash moves.

“Travelers!” Shouts one of the reindeer, her voice going in and out as she traveled around the wagon. “Come out and lay down your arms. This is a standard highway robbery.” You see as she passes that the one speaking has an eyepatch over her right eye, but that’s about all you see before she’s out of sight again.

Blake grits his teeth as he replies, “What if we refuse?”

“Well, then we kill your women and take you and your supplies with us anyway.”

You share a look between everyone on the wagon and nod. Those were very uncharitable terms indeed, and gosh if you didn’t like that.

“Daddy, what are we going to do?” Asks Saya, tugging on your sleeve. One of her eyes had gone spider again and you could see a slightly malicious glint behind it. Oh dear, it seems you can take the girl from the homicide but you can’t take the homicide from the girl.

Still, she had a good question. You had a little time to think this over, but…

You squeeze Saya’s hand firmly and nod,picking up your new knife staff. You look around at the assembled group and speak softly as you eye Blake out of the corner of your eye.

“Listen up. These bandits have no idea what they’re in for, but let’s try not to kill them if we can help it.” You cough as Tabitha gives you a flat loot. “Anyway, I’m going to cast a shield around us, stop the arrows. After that we’ll have a defensive wall and if they want to press in, wel, it’s not like we lack for skilled warriors.”

Veronica grunts. “Fine by me, but usually with bandits the easiest way to stop them is to make them run. Preferably by taking out their leader. Pretty cowardly in most situations.”

Tabitha cocks her head, “I didn’t take you for a traveler to know these things.”

Veronica narrows her eyes, “Shut it lizard tits, we have classes ones these things.”

Tabitha rolls her eyes and you cough as you see Blake start to tense up, the tempo of the hoofbeats rising as well. You slowly stand up as you hear eyepatch call out again.

“Alright this is tiresome, you have until I count to 5 to get out here or we attack,got it?”

“One…” She begins

You look to the others and nod before putting a hand on Saya’s head. “Hey sugar, think you can do daddy a favor?”


“Uhm… Sure?” Saya says, a little confused.


“Daddy needs you to sneak up on the one with an eyepatch while we have her distracted, okay?”


Saya nods and you turn to the side of the cart and take a deep breath, channeling your will through the excited Chaika.


You vault from the back of the wagon and quickly form the [Shield circle], creating the magical framework in seconds. Without knowing exactly what you are doing, you slap in a fixation rune and adjust the angle on the northward circle. You feel a sort hum of power and around you a feeling of solidity appears as your allies pile in around you.

Arrows begin to pelt around you, but with minimal effort you adjust the angle of the shield and create a domed barrier. It’s rather taxing to do actually and you begin to feel some strain as the blows begin to rain down. You look back to your companions and see Saya hiding in the back, looking about for a good opportunity. Good girl.

It does occur to you that you should have told Blake and Hala about this plan, but he’s a big boy, he can take care of himself. Of course, as you have that thought you look back and see one of the reindeer charging you with a spear.

You curse and pull back as Harmony thunders forward, and you drop your barrier in the spot where the charge is coming from with a quick adjustment on the circle. As you do so, you feel a soft imbalance in your mind and you grunt. The damn book wasn’t kidding, this is good stuff but it isn’t to be taken lightly!

The reindeer, spear leveled, aims directly for harmony’s heart, and she yells a mighty reindeer warcry before the end of her spear slams into Harmony’s chest. It promptly shatters the shaft into a million splinters, the reindeer’s arm being forced back mercilessly as her forward momentum carries her into an awkward spiral and she crashes to the ground, skidding across the dirt face first. She did manage to push Harmony back with the momentum, but in the end she got the worst of it as it lays in the ground. She twitches slightly before a blow by Harmony’s fist causes her to go still.

As it all happens the other reindeer instantly focus upon Harmony and a hail of arrows flies towards her, all bouncing harmlessly off her body. She stands there, immune to their punishment and the leader growls.

“Oh, got yourself something fancy there eh? Well once we rough you up, it’ll be ours for the taking!”

Blake replies, his sword held in one hand, shield in another while Hala prowls behind him, “Stop this! Just turnaround and leave before this ends in bloodshed. It should be obvious that you’re outclassed here!”

The leader snorts like some kind of horse. “You just don’t understand.” She looks to her reindeer and waves her spear. The others nod in reply and begin to assault again.

Arrows flew all around, mainly targeting you and Blake. You were fine, but Blake had to duck and block, Hala thankfully was able to dance about pretty easily though, although her eyes had a look of restrained bloodlust, like she was dying to go after such ripe prey.

Three spear-wielding reindeer charge into harmony and the construct stands her ground firmly as the approach from three sides. You feel a mild sense of alarm at this, even though you’re certain they can’t pierce that armor, however if she is knocked down…

Before your fears become true, you see Veroncia and Tabitha dash up and swing their weapons right before the reindeer hit the Harmony. The sword cleaves the spear in twain and the backstroke cuts deeply into the arm of the reindeer who screams as she veers off, while the mace slams heavily into the chest of another, causing the monster to grunt and fall, hitting the dirt hard before screaming in pain.

The last one, coming from the front, veered off track before hitting, dashing off course as she saw a futile gesture. You smirk, thinking how silly these reindeer were when you feel a powerful jolt from the side and you stagger to one knee as you head begins to pound.

{Hey! Get your damn head in the game!} growls Chaika and you look over to see a reindeer pounding at your shield. Apparently her charge was more of a body slam, because her spear was intact and she is currently using it to wail on your shield. You growl and drop the section of shield before raising Chaika and channeling a [Lightning Bolt] through her.

The power wasn’t as much as it was with Harmony, which was great as that would have killed the poor girl, but it was plenty enough to push the reindeer back, a patch of charred skin at the spot the bolt hit and she twitches and trashes as the power courses through her. With that settled you quickly look behind you to make certain no one was there and you realize that Saya was gone!

Your heart pounds furiously as you look about, but you can’t spot her. You start to lose concentration when Chaika growls, {She’s fine you idiot, now look to your right!}

You do so to find two more of the damn girls charging toward you. Where the hell did they keep coming from? Well, whatever, you prepare to open the barrier again and fry the two when you notice one of them hefting her spear up. Damn, if you opened up, she was going to impale you. That would not be good for your health. You’re not a healer, but you’re pretty sure that’s true.

The other one begins to hammer away at your shield and you feel her crazy monster strength start to tear a hole in your mental defenses. You grit your teeth against this and look to see the others besieged again. Well shit, okay you might have to do something reckless here.

You heft up Chaika in one arm, a little awkwardly because, well, you haven’t done this before. With the other arm you point toward the reindeer with the spear raised and you stare her down. If you drop your shield, you can probably fire off your electrify AND impale the other one at roughly the same time. It was an arrowproof plan…

You drop the shield and toss Chaika, who doth protest too much for your taste, and she sails through the air toward the reindeer girl as you throw out a [Lightning Bolt!]. Well, okay, so “toward” was a strong word, because wow, you were bad at this. Chaika sailed fast, true, but she was about 5 feet to the side of the reindeer girl, who stares at the spear then back to you with a flat expression, as if insulted. The other reindeer wasn’t as fortunate as you zap the fuck out of her.

The one you missed rears her legs in the air and charges toward you, spear leveled. You prepare to fire another bolt, but out of the corner of your eye you see another reindeer coming in and you hesitate, just long enough to miss your chance, and your eyes go wide as you fumble to put your shield back up, but it’s too late.

The spear drives toward your face, but stops short as a voice booms, “Gahhh dam it! Surrender!”

You blink, steel mere inches from your face as the reindeer looks over her shoulder. You carefully edge around the spear to get away from the point and look to see what she sees. You squint some, but you find it pretty quickly.

The centaur leader, who you now had the proper time to look over, stood there, hands in the air as Saya pressed her blade to the reindeer’s throat. The reindeer was a tall one, even for something with a lower half of a deer, and her coat was a dark color of brown that stood out from the others. Her upper torso was that of a fairly muscular woman, clothed in a leather jacket that you were certain she appropriated from someone as it didn’t quite fit her appropriately, and seemed a little long. Regardless, she wore it open to expose ample cleavage.

Her face was hard and lean, with a serious expression seemingly stamped in there. Despite that she still had a gorgeous face, marred only by her missing her right eye, which was covered by an ornate red eyepatch. Atop her head,nestled in her long, black hair, was a pair of long antlers that hung out from either side of her head. She shook them gently as Saya tensed with the knife before she snorted,

“Bah, dam you, sneaking up on a bandit. That’s not right!”

“Would you like I slit your throat?” Asks Saya, and you frown. Might need to work on that, but oh well she was doing really well! You were so proud of your little girl!

The other reindeer grit their teeth and drop their weapons as the leader nods her head and they back up in a circle as your group closes in. You retrieve Chaika from the grass and she proceeds to give you a string of curses that would blister the backside of a goat. Aww, she so cute when she’s angry!

{Fuck off wizard!} she grumbles.

{Love you too snakey.} you reply before looking back to where Blake walks up to the leader of the bandits, and you walk up to stand by Harmony as the Hero crosses his arms.

“Alright, let’s start of with something simple. Why did you attack us?”

The leader snorts, “Because we’re bandits and you’re travelers, it’s pretty obvious.”

“Very well, then why are you bandits.”

The leader looks down at Saya and and rolls her eyes, stamping one hoof. “Because you have to eat somehow.”

Blake nods gently. “True, but I have never known of reindeer to be bandits, even with the limited amount of information in these parts. Your band is pretty skilled with your weapons, but let’s be honest, you’re not killers.”

The leader narrows her eyes, “What would you know about this? You’re not one of the villagers from around these parts and you’re not from the fort, so don’t pretend you know us.”

“Well, why then?”

She snorts and stamps a hoof again before grumbling, “We were forced out of our home.”

Blake blinks before adopting a serious expression. “What do you mean, forced?”

“I mean it like it is! We used to live up near the base of the mountain but more and more strange monsters have been arriving, attacking those who won’t fall instep, saying something about, “their duty to the Lady!”

She laughs, “As if we’d go along with that bitch! The damn ladies have done nothing for our people ever, so why should we help them?” She begins to shake her head but stops, looking at Saya again who bares her teeth.

You sigh, “That’s enough darling, i think you’re good.”

Saya blinks and looks to you before looking back at the reindeer and then slowly pulling her blade-hand away. The leader looks at her curiously as she retreats to your side. You rub her head gently as the other monster begins to speak again.

“You’re one strange, strange group, you know that? Just our luck that our first mark would be this.” She sighs and rubs at her eyepatch. “Damn it.”

You look up the reindeer and ask cautiously, “So, the path ahead is… Full of monsters?”

She raises an eyebrow. “Well, yes, you’re almost in monster territory you idiot. However, this is more than normal, and I wouldn’t advise you following this road much further.” She seems to think about something for a moment. “Wait, why are you here anyway? The towns around here have all been raided and ahead is monster land, why would you bother?”

Blake coughs, “Thats personal information. However your information of the road ahead is personally helpful. I suppose we’ll have to look for a way around I guess.”

The reindeer snorts, apparently it’s a habit of hers, “Oh, sure there’s a pass into the mountains, most don’t know about it.”

“Could you point us to it?”

The reindeer rubs her chin. “I could… But you know, you just stopped us from collecting our meal ticket…”

Veronica rolls her eyes, “Ugh, we’ll pay you.”

The monster chuckles and raises a hand, “Oh that’s cute, but no, we need actual supplies.”

Veronica folds her arms, “Well you’re not getting ours, go to the fort and ask real nice.”

“Don’t be trite with me you little…” The leader cuts off when she sees Blake raise an eye brow and she coughs into her hand. “Ahem, well, look, I know somewhere else you could get some stuff for us. All the farms around here are down since everyone left town, but there’s one place further up, this rather large house that always seems cold. There’s a monster there who has plenty of supplies. Get us some and we’ll send you on your way.”

You look to the others and frown. “Why… Don’t you just raid it yourself?”

The reindeer snorts, this time in amusement, “Oh no, fighting her would likely not be a good idea, and as you can tell we aren’t really built for stealth. However, I bet your resourceful group could do it…”

Veronica laughs, “What, and leave our supplies alone for you to steal? I think not!”

The reindeer shrugs, “It would probably only take one or two of you to be honest, we don’t need THAT much, just a little something before we go off on the search for greener pastures.” There’s an implied, “or greener travelers” in there

“What… Kind of monster are we talking about here?” You ask carefully.

“Some kind of spirit I think, never really seen her.” The leader rests a hand under her chin and she appraises all of you. “So, what’s it going to be?”

Blake looks baked and forth between everyone, questioning. Do you accept their little mission or Will you look for the pass on your own? There’s always other options but this one seems the fastest… It’s a tough call and you have to think about it carefully before making your decision.

“You uh… You okay there Blake?” Asks Hala as she waves a hand in front of the man’s face. He sort of wavers for a moment before putting a hand to his head and shaking it slowly.

“Yes…yes I’m quite fine. Sorry, must have taken one of the blows a little hard.”

Hala sighs and pats his head with one of her fluffy paws. “Jeez, you looked like you took some of the wizard’s leaf!”

Everyone else gives you odd glances at you and you shrug. “What? I swore off alcohol. I have to have something.” You rub your head as they continue to look at you, “Oh come on, hey look if you want some just ask! We can pass the pipe or something.”

Tabitha coughs into her hand, her cheeks getting a little red. “Please never use that expression again.”

You cock your head and she looks to the side. “It’s… A Lizardman tradition and its… rather…” She fumbles with the words, which you find adorable and surprising. It’s quite rare for her to be so self-conscious, which meant it was obviously something lewd, a fact that Hala couldn’t get over as she chuckled softly behind a paw.

Veronica coughs into her hand, “Tabitha’s apparent prudishness withstanding, what do we say about this?” She waves a hand at Tabitha dismissively when the lizardman gives her a shaded look. “Personally, this smells like a set-up, and even if it isn’t, we’d be no better than common thugs.”

You raise a finger, “Thieves, actually. Thugs would walk in and beat her up, they are implying something else.”

Veronica grunts as Tabitha begins to talk. “If what they say is true about the usual route, and I have no doubt that it is, then we could spend days looking for a way into the mountains. This may be our only option here.”

Blake looks down in consternation. “This doesn’t sit well with me, but we can’t afford to lose that time. Besides, the longer we search, the more likely it is that we end up running into more monsters.”

Hala pipes up, “Perhaps we can parley with the spirit? Purchase supplies off her? Not like money will mean much up in the mountains.”

Everyone looks at her in surprise, even Harmony, and she stamps her foot. “Oh gods damnit, why does everyone do that when I say something?”

Blake pats her head as she pouts, “Because they are shocked by your wisdom dear.” He looks back up and nods. “That may well be our best goal. Should negotiations fail… We’ll have to think it over from there, but we may well have to infiltrate…”

He looks to Saya who blinks and then blushes before moving back next to you, where you put a hand on her head and speak, “Sounds like something we could do.” You then rub your little girl’s hair gently, “You did good today by the way pumpkin. I was worried when I couldn’t find you earlier.”

She beams up and you and you faintly hear Hala sighing as she looks at you and Saya together. Solos, these monsters and their hormones, yeesh. Well, you suppose it did feel good to have a little bundle of joy around, who could come up behind people and stab them. Actually you didn’t really know how you felt about that last part, because while you do support such a talent… You don’t really want to foster it terribly or see her get hurt. The real world was a very harsh place.

Blake nods at looks to the construct next to you, “Does this sound alright to you miss… Harmony, was it?”

Harmony nods in reply, “Indeed it is sir Hero. I follow the wizard.”

“Of course. Alright, we’ll go along with these reindeer for now. I don’t overly trust them either, but we’ll see what we can do here.”

He turns about then and speaks with the leader who smiles wickedly and rounds up her band. As she walks by you gently touch her fur, just to see how fluffy she is (The answer is fairly fluffy) and she cranes her head to the left to look back at you, a wicked glint in her eye. You sort of look off to the side, whistling as she rides by, her tail flapping up and down. Why did you do it, one may ask? Because you were curious is all, not every day you get to see a reindeer girl or something.

Barring that little distraction, you then load into your wagon. Delilah just stares flatly as you sit down and you realize that Bubs was sleeping on top of her head. Aww, look at him curled into a little ball on top of her head, making her hair into a nest. So cute.

“Your rat is a nuisance.” She says to you as the wagon starts to roll forward. Veronica raises a finger in agreement from the other side of the wagon.

“Aww, but he’s a cute nuisance.” You say, scooping the little guy up. He yawns and blinks his eyes before crawling down into your pocket and rummaging about before going back to sleep. “And that means he likes you!”

“Well, be that as it may, I could use a little less liking from him. Besides, I can’t believe you left me in the wagon again, it is interminably boring.”

“Well, I’m sorry that you’re only a head of an undead monster who tried to kill us. Would you like some ink or something to draw while we ride?” You say, smiling like a jackass.

“No I would not, thank you kindly.”

“Would you like a puff of the pipe? Huh? Maybe pass the pipe a little bit?”

Tabitha throws up her hands and then buries her face in them. Oh gods this must be one lewd ritual the lizardmen have, wow. The dullahan head looks up at you with flat, dead eyes, and says in a monotone, “Why would I want to do that.”

“Because it would be funny, besides, it might help take the edge off.” You say as you pull your [pipe] and some [Green Leaf] from your bag.

“Edge off of what?” She says as you stuff the pipe between her teeth and light the bowl with a small fire spell.

The Dullahan blinks and grits her teeth on the things, glaring daggers at you before she slowly takes a puff, which actually you wonder how the hell she did that with no windpipe or lungs, and smoke flares out from under her neck. She blinks and then takes another puff before narrowing her eyes at you.

“Hmph. Not bad.”

You smile and take the pipe, puffing it some before passing it back. Tabitha is utterly mortified at this point and Hala can’t help but harass her about it. You smile and lean back as your fragrant smoke drifts out of the wagon.

Saya pulls at your sleeve. “Daddy, can I try?”

“Maybe when you’re older sweetie.”

“Dad, I have the essence of an adult, homicidal spider and two grown women inside me.”

“Maybe when they’re older.”

She huffs and rolls her eyes before crossing her arms and pouting. You chuckle some and rub her head gently. You look across the wagon and see Veronica conversing with Blake in the front and Harmony looking at you. You take one more puff of the [Pipe] and pass it back to Delilah, who takes it with relish, before you address Harmony.

“So. Hands, right?”

“Yeah, hands. They’re very… Solid.”

“Sometimes they are. How are you doing?”

She looks up and taps her chest. “Pretty good actually. Didn’t feel a thing when I got attacked, although that’s not a new occurrence.” She looks at her hand, flexing the fingers. “It’s odd having these still, but in combat it was instinctive to just make a fist, you know?”

You nod your head, “Aye, I do.”

“Actually, for a moment there, I thought I felt something else, like there was another system in this body that could be utilized.” She waves a hand, “It felt… Sort of familiar, like a current.”

You rub your chin. “Maybe these things had ancillary attack systems or something? It’s not like I had a manual or something.”

She chuckles, “And don’t I know it. Anyway, I saw that you’re using the staff again, with an… Addition.”

You look to Chaika who brims with a little bit of overconfidence as Harmony fixates on her. The two don’t say anything to each other and you cough into your hand to break the silence. “Yes, well, that is so, that is so. Felt like it could be useful, aye?”

If harmony could have raised an eyebrow, she would have. “Uh huh. Just be careful, the staff does amplify its attunement and that is… Very attuned.”

You look down at Chaika who seethes innocent charm. {Who,me?} she asks gently and you roll your eyes before leaning back. Oi, these spirits were a crazy!

The rest of your ride was fairly uneventful, only marked by Delilah learning how to blow smoke rings somehow and your hilarity abounding from it. Your wagon slows as the leader, who’s name you never received, ran in pace with your horses next to Blake. Apparently the house was up ahead, and the herd didn’t want to spook the poor girl, so they’ll stay behind while your group heads up. Blake nods in approval as the reindeer ride away and soon enough the house comes into view behind the late afternoon sun.

Perhaps house was the wrong term to use, because this place was huge. It could easily be called a mansion, made out of white stone that made it stand out from the sparse forest around it. You weren’t an admirer of architecture or anything, so you didn’t quite know the style, but it seemed uh… Old. Like, something you’d see in sanctifrond style old.

As you approach, you notice large columns made of stone and a fence that runs the property, gated with cold steel. Speaking of cold, as you approach, you begin to feel things getting chillier the closer you get, although nothing seems frozen or frosted, you still notice that all the trees on the property that weren’t evergreens were dead, if placed in a fantastic looking arrangement. There was even a large fountain in the middle of the grounds that seemed to be slowly spewing a trickle of water down into a moss coated basin.

Your wagon pulls up to the front of the gates, which were closed and barred, and you notice that there was a small placard next to the gate which read, “Julianf Manor: The service knows you’re here.”

“What does that mean?” Asks Veronica as she narrows her eyes.

At that you hear a slight grating sound and the gates swing open upon their hinges. Your party all look about but see no one near the gates. They just… Opened themselves? You felt a small shiver go down your spine as you pondered how that could be possible. The wind? Yeah, yeah that was it. The wind.

“Uh… Okay.” Says Veronica, clutching her mace. “Let’s just head inside.”

Blake nods and drives the wagon, which easily fit through the gate, into the grounds and toward the house. A few moments after the wagon fully passes you hear another grating sound followed by a crash of metal and you spin around to see the gates closed again.

“Okay, what the hells” Comments Veronica, who is visibly clutching at her mace. “I don’t like this place at all.”

“Me either…” says Tabitha as she looks about the silent grounds.

“I like it.” Says Delilah with a decidedly creepy expression of contentment on her face.

You shiver as a cool wind brushes past and it practically feels like you’re in some kind of deep cavern. You look at the grounds and hear nothing but the rustle of wind and the flow of water besides your wagon. You breath out a hazy mist as you rub your hands together. Veronica was right, this was weird.

“You know…” Says Hala, who was apparently unaffected by the cold, “If these reindeer had never been to this place, how do they know anything about it? Where would the supplies have come from anyway?”

Everyone looks at her with that same look and she growls. “I swear to the gods I will bite every last one of you.”

Blake just pats her head again as you pull up to the front of the manor. As your wagon comes to a stop, Mr. Ed lets out a long neigh and stamps a hoof. You narrow your eyes and look out at the front of the house to see a large set of heavy rosewood doors set into a large, ornate frame with carved snowflakes. On the second level sat a balcony and from a window there you swear you see someone looking at you before they abruptly vanish.

“Uh… Did anyone just see that?” You ask, pointing up.

Tabitha looks up, not overly affected by the cold thanks to your gift, and she frowns. “See what?”

“Hmm… Nothing, I guess.” You murmur and begin to dismount. As soon as your boots hit the ground, you hear a clack of metal followed by a creaking noise of metal hinges and you look up to see one of the heavy wooden doors slowly swing open. This time, however there was a figure standing behind the door, but you had to blink a few times to make sure you were seeing it correctly.

Inside the door stood an average height monster, dressed in an ornate maid’s outfit, her hands placed before her on a polite gesture of any house staff. After that though… Things got weird. First off, her body was made a thick, black gel that seemed to connect with the clothing she wore, blending it while some seemed to ripple and shimmer off her body. She had tentacles where her feet should have been and for some reason you felt like you could see things in the tentacles that… Weren’t right. Her face was average enough in proportion, but her eyes were a deep yellow and when she smiled, you realized that her teeth her sharp and pointed.

“Oh my.” She says in a sweet, almost dulcette voice. “We have guests! Oh it’s been so long since we’ve had guests, oh do please come in, the lady will be delighted!”

You all trade glances between each other and Blake shrugs. “I have no idea.” He mouths before smiling amiably at the maid. “Many thanks! We are glad to be hosted by your lady, but we wish only for a brief visit. Perchance a few of us may stay outside to look after our wagon? Dangerous times I am afraid.”

The maid’s smile never wavers as she bows. “As you wish master, however there is nothing to fear here, my lady would never allow it.”

Everyone’s spine tingles at that, you’re certain of it. Veronica and Tabitha elect to stay back at the wagon and you, Blake, Harmony, and Saya all enter the manor. You feel really hesitant about bringing Saya into this, but if you needed to sneak out or send her off somewhere then you wanted her close at hand. Besides, leaving her with those two and Delilah? Gosh, what sort of role models would those be with their honor and upstanding moral fiber? No, best to stay with you.

The maid leads you up inside the manor and you stare in wonder. At your feet was a red, plush carpet over a sea of marble that spread out to a large staircase that flowed up with a balcony overlooking the entire first floor. There were two side hallways which lead to more rooms on the right and one on the left and you could see statues and busts along the hallways there of various monsters and humans. Paintings hung every place they could, along with armor of styles that you barely knew existed. The paintings were of all sorts of things, landscapes, portraits, etc, but the common theme was ice and snow.

You stare in wonderment at a rather large piece of a woman with delicate features and white skin alongside bluish hair. She had a strikingly beautiful face, but her eyes were severe, underneath the calm exterior. The artist, whoever they were, really knew how to capture someone well.

“This way, if you’d please.” The maid says before bowing and leading you to one of the side hallways on the right and into a large tea room with soft, plush couches. Chaika seemed to squirm at the sight of so many couches, muttering how there was a distinct lack of chairs, but you ignored her.

Taking a seat, you watch as the maid bows again. “The lady should join you soon. Please excuse the wait while I prepare tea.”

She closes the door and leaves the four of you in silence. None of you say anything for a long while, the eerie quiet stretching on and on and on. A slightly creaking is heard as Harmony shifts on the couch and everyone stares at her to which she holds up her hands.

“Sorry!” She says lightly, fidgeting.

You cough into your hand. “So….”

“Yeah.” Says Blake.

“Why is everyone acting weird?” Asks Harmony. “Is it because of the lady there? I thought she looked pretty normal.

“Sorry honey, it’s just a little striking to see uh… Someone else like you!”

“Woah, you’re saying that someone else made someone like me?”

You look to Blake who shrugs. “Possibly.” He says. “Can’t rule anything out as it stands, but I think we should conclude our business here shortly. I have a feeling the resident lady is a Yuki-onna and…

You whip it around as you hear the door knob turn and slowly open. Standing in the doorway as the same woman from the portrait, every detail the same. She wore a light, blue dress that seemed to accentuate her skin well and flow all the way to cover to feet. She smiles delicately at your group, a hint of amusement in her eyes as she studies you and Blake.

“Oh my, Xanthia did say we had guests, but not such handsome ones.” She puts a hand to her cheek. “Oh dear, this is so embarrassing.”

Blake stands and bows politely. “Thank you for your kind words lady…”

“Declore. Hilda Juliant. And you are?” Oddly, you hear the sound of a horse neighing from outside as she says he name.

“Ah, forgive me, I am Blake Boudreaux, and this is lady Harmony, Saya, and the Wizard.”

She raises and eyebrow and looks at you. “Oh my, a wizard? I haven’t seen your like in ages. Oh dear, it has been too long since I have entertained guests.”

“Please ma’am, take a seat.” Says Blake, waving his hand.

“Such a gentleman!” She coos before sitting down on the couch directly next to him. Blake looks slightly uncomfortable at that and she gently smiles at him.

“Is something the matter dear?”

“No, of course not.” He says, keeping his cool and his million gold smile.

You hear a slight knock at the door and it slowly swings open to admit the maid, carrying a tray of tea. She gently sets it down on the table and then bows before pouring some for everyone, gently asking if they’d like sugar or milk. She hands the first cup to Saya, then to you, then to Blake, and finally the lady who took her tea black.

As soon as it touches her fingers though the vibrant steam flowing from the ornate teacup vanishes, as if snuffed out. She takes it to her blue lips and slowly drinks of it, her eyes closing in ecstasy as she savors the taste.

“Mmm, an excellent brew indeed Xanthia.”

The maid bows, “I live to serve, my lady.”

You take a sip as well and find if piping hot and quite enjoyable, even if you didn’t drink the stuff often. Saya just makes a face but drinks it anyway since everyone else was doing it, but you could tell she hated it.

Lady Juliant smiles and places her sauced and cup back onto the table before leaning close to Blake. “Well now… What can I do for you today Sir Boudreaux?”

“We were wondering if it were possible to procure supplies from you. Foodstuffs, mostly, however we did wonder what else you may wish for trade.”

The lady purses her lips thoughtfully. “Hmm… Supplies you say? Surely travelers such as yourselves did not come all this way just for such?”

“We… Are acting as intermediaries, unless you know of a way into the mountains?”

She laughs, “Ah, of course. The mountains into monster territory, how bold of you! My, I should have figured that you would be such daring adventurers.”

As she finishes that, she steeples her fingers on her lap. “Well then, you wish for a trade, yes?”

Blake nods, “We have plenty of funds to pay for…” Blake is cut off as the yuki-onna gently puts a finger on his lips, causing him to shiver slightly as she coos softly.

“I don’t want your money… All I ask is that you, and yours stay the night, and then you may have all your heart desires…”

You and Harmony exchange looks. What does that mean?

{Oooooo, someone’s going to get raped!}

You frown in consternation and stare at your knife stick, which is totally what you’re calling it now because you feel it would be funny, and reply back,

{I’m sorry, what was that?}

Chaika seems brimming with excitement as she reiterates. {Someone. Is. Going to get raped!}

You mentally sigh. {Yes yes, I got that the first time, but who is going to get raped?}

{Oh, the Hero of course, which is a good call, he’s quite delicious after all, but perhaps you too if you’re not careful.}

{So….} you begin, a little hesitant, {You think this is some kind of trap?}

{No, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate invitation by a reclusive and horny ice spirit in a mansion with an abomination for a maid.} she says in a flat tone.

{Oh good, because I thought…}

{Of course it’s a fucking trap you dunce!} Chaika shouts, exasperated. {Are you an idiot or something?}

You mentally smirk and Chaika brims with mild fury. {Asshole.}

{You know you love it.} You reply smugly and Chaika sighs back.

{While true, that doesn’t change the situation. Staying the night would probably be a bad idea regardless. I don’t know what her game is, but I certainly know she has one.}

{Why’s that?} you ask, curiously.

{Have you noticed a single chair in this entire place?}

You pause, confused. {Uh… No, but what does that have to do with…}

{It’s not natural!} she hisses and you recoil some from the power of it.

You blink and look over at Lady Juliant and see she’s basically leaning on Blake at this point and he’s doing this damnedest to not to incredibly uncomfortable. He would be succeeding quite well, except his eyes, you could see it in his eyes, the poor bloke.

You sigh mentally and rub your head before replying, {Okay, okay, I’ll be careful.}

{You’ll be raped!} she replies and you roll your eyes. Yes, true, you’re very nervous about all of this now, but at least you had your own psychopathic killer snake to help you in this situation. Seriously though, what IS the deal with the chairs?

You cough loudly into your hand to try and get the Yuki-onna’s attention. She either didn’t hear or is ignoring you, and you are forced to speak loudly, “Lady Juliant?”

She turns her gaze on you and you can feel the temperature around you drop precipitously, even though she has a smile on her face that doesn’t quite touch her eyes. You gulp as she asks, “Yes, sir wizard?”

“Uhh.” You begin, taken aback some, “You see, uh, well, that is…”

“Yes?” She asks in the same tone, although you feel a wave of impatience come over her.

“Wizards!” You blurt out, sweat starting to trickle down despite the cold. Dead gods she’s scary.

Lady Juliant cocks and eyebrow. “Wizards?”

“Yes… Wizards! You said that you had dealings with them in the past, yes? I was wondering what uh…that entailed?”

She blinks and then looks to Blake who coughs and says politely, “If you would be so kind, milady.”

She purses her lips and pulls back from Blake and you see his eyes visibly become more calm. She arranges her dress carefully before placing her hands in her lap as the maid pours her more tea. She calmly takes a sip and then looks at you with a cool expression.

“True, I have had dealings with wizards long ago. They used to travel quite frequently and were such wonderful guests.”

“Did they… ever have a reason for being out here?”

She touches her lips, “None that they would say anyway. But it was so long ago and most always left instead of staying the night.” She shakes her head, “These lands have always been dangerous for those who travel around at night.”

That chill comes down your spine again and you gulp. “And of those who did stay the night?”

She smiles broadly, “Why, they received their heart’s desire, of course.”

You and Blake trade looks before you ask slowly, “What exactly does that entail?”

She smirks and takes a sip of tea slowly before answering, “Answers, artifacts…. Experiences.” She puts a hard emphasis on the last part.

“I… See. What sort of artifacts do you mean?”

She waves a hand, “Such matters can wait until the morning along with those supples you would like. I’m afraid it’s getting quite dark outside and your poor companions must be rather cold.”

You narrow your eyes at the dodging of the question but you restrain yourself after Blake gives you a firm shake of his head. You grit your teeth and nod back before taking a deep breath and putting on your best fake smile and placing your arm around

“Well then! Myself and my DAUGHTER would be deeeeelighted to stay the evening, wouldn’t we dear?”

Saya looks up at you with extreme confusion and you nod her head slowly with your hand. The maid cocks her head some, studying you curiously while Lady Juliant purses her lips again and then looks to Blake who smiles back. “Yes, my MATE and I would love to take up your hospitality.”

The Yuki-onna narrows her eyes before finishing her tea and handing the cup back to the maid who places it back on the serving platter. The rest of you to the same and the monster stands slowly before nodding. “Indeed. Please, do see yourself settled in. I shall have Xanthia make room arrangements for you and begin to prepare dinner.

You blink and cock your head. “Surely that would take more than just yourselves, where are the others who live here?”

Lady Juliant turns to you and smiles softly, “Others? My dear Wizard, we are the only living here.”

“I don’t like it.” Mutters Veronica as she finishes stabling the horses. Harmony secures the last of the wagon’s supplies before she sighs in reply.

“Nor do I.”

The aspirant nods to the construct and then frowns toward you. “Why’d you have to go and say we’d stay the night here?”

You raise both of you hands in a defensive gesture, “Hey, hey! Don’t pin this all on me, the big lummox helped too!”

Hala lifts her nose indignantly, “I’ll be he did, he helped himself all over that whore.”

Blake lifts a finger, “Hala, mind your manners around our host.” He looks a little sheepish, “Besides, she’s the one who came onto me.”

Hala throws her hands into the air, “That’s what you always say!”

Tabitha hops down from the wagon and rolls her neck. “No sense in arguing, what’s done is done. Besides, it sounds as if something… Bad would happen if we tried to leave this place now.”

Veronica nods slowly before looking back at the entrance gates. “Did you notice the gates before? How no one was around to open and close them?”

You shrug and tap your head, “Well, it wasn’t magic. I scanned around this whole place and didn’t see anything.” Which was true, you didn’t sense any magic, but at the same time you felt… Wrong. Like there was something there, dancing in the edge of your senses, avoiding you. You had a feeling resting easy was going to be a bit harder than you thought.

You shake your head. “Look, things may happen tonight, namely the Yuki-onna will probably try to rape Blake, but we just have to survive until morning. And if I need to burn a house it the ground, then so be it.”

Everyone nods in agreement while Hala grabs onto Blake’s arm tightly. As you all readied to go, you hear a loud clearing of a non-existent throat and you turn back to see Delilah staring at you.

“Oh! Sorry Delilah, forgot you were there for a moment.” You say, a little sheepishly.

“Oh, no sure, it’s nothing.” The Dullahan says with a flat expression. “No, I’m fine out here on the wagon all night. Again.”

“Uhm…” You rub at the back of your head and look between the others. Blake shrugs and you sigh, “Sorry… Did you want to come in with us?”

She snorts, “Hells no, I’m fine out here in this atmosphere.” She quirks and eyebrow, “But if you could leave me that pipe…”

You roll your eyes and produce your [pipe] and some [green leaf] as you do, Delilah catches sight of your [brown leaf], raising an eyebrow.

You ponder it quite seriously before shrugging and placing some in the bowl. “Well, if you promise to guard the cart….” You rub at your head and look back to her, resolute, “Now, Delilah, this stuff is supposed to be super potent so…”

“Yeah yeah, just light it up.”

You blink at her out of character forcefulness and place the pipe into her mouth after lighting the bowl. She takes a few test puffs and then looks up at you, her eyes getting a little wide.


“You…. You okay there?” You ask and she nods slowly.

“I think. I am very okay.” She says slowly in response.

Yow narrow your eyes before you hear Tabitha calling you and you stand up, back straight. You turn to go but look back over your shoulder after a few steps and see the Dullahan with the widest eyes you’ve ever seen and a goofy expression on her face. It would be charming if it wasn’t also mildly disturbing from her. With some mild misgivings about what you did, you do join the others in the house.

Dinner was a simple affair of roasted chicken, potatoes, cheeses, assorted fruits, and vintage wine. You scanned it all with your [Mage Sight] before eating and it all seemed to check out okay, however you did still feel that odd sense of being off whenever you scanned. Ah, whatever, it didn’t seem to kill Hala, the first to dig in, so whatever, dinner was served and it was excellent.

When Tabitha even complimented Xanthia, she blushes. Which effectively turned her black goo into more of a purple goo, but it was actually quite adorable. For Lady Juliant, she was quite amiable, however you noticed that during the entire dinner, no question anyone asked her garnered a straight answer. Even a simple question such as, “where do you get all this food from,” was answered with misdirection. It gave you a distinct sense of unease.

When the meal was finished you were shown to your rooms on the second floor of the manor, three in total. You shared a room with Saya and Harmony while Tabitha and Veronica were pillowmates again. Blake’s insistence had him paired again with Hala and you felt a little easier knowing that at least he had his hypervigilant guard dog along for the ride. Which could and probably would be a double entendre considering how upset Hala was.

You rub at your face and lean back on your bed staring into the dark room lit only by a small candle in the corner. You rub at your eyes, working up the courage to start setting wards. You had already installed [Remote sentries] above the doors of the other’s rooms, which were annoyingly down the hall quite a way, but you needed to form a barrier in this room. A shame couldn’t keep the concentration to have multiples up but… Well at least you’d be alerted to danger.

You feel a shudder on the bed and look up to see Saya smiling above you. You smile back and say in a tired voice, “Hey there pumpkin.”

“You know, I think you said we wouldn’t be getting comfortable beds anymore.”

You chuckle, “Well that’s fortune for you. Still, I don’t think we’ll see much after this place.”

Saya sighs, “You’re right, the mountains are a dreary place, nothing but snow and rocks.”

You blink and look at her seriously. “Saya?”

She seems a little startled and rubs at her head, “Oh… Oh, sorry that was… I guess it was something from Victoria. Must have remembered the mountains before she Uhm… Yeah.”

“Saya…” You begin slowly, “Are you able to recall anything else from Victoria?”

She frowns deeply on concentration. “There’s… A stone building… A… A fortress over a large cliff and… A lake, but…” She puts a hand to her head. “I… I don’t see anything else.”

She looks at you, a little downcast, “Sorry.”

You push yourself up and embrace the girl in a hug. “Shhh, it’s okay little girl, it’s okay. Thank you for trying.”

She nods her head, beaming again and you ruffle her hair before turning to Harmony. The construct looks at you with a nod and you stand up, stretching.

“Alright, so let’s get this room warded. I have a feeling something’s going to try and get into this room and I don’t want to be unprepared, alright?”

She nods and the two of you quickly form a circle around the room. Bubs, the lovable bastard, plays with Saya the entire time, apparently feeling less than useful, and even less curious than that. Poor guy, you’d need to give him a Bubsy snack in the near future.

You smile in appreciation and are about to activate it when you feel something in one of your [Remote sentries] and your spine stiffens as you quickly switch your focus to the one in front of The girl’s door. At first, you don’t see anything, and wonder if it was just the maid who passed by, but then, as you concentrate more in the dark, you begin to see something… Something indistinct, but something…

You furrow your brow and concentrate on it, and it begins to slowly come to you that in the darkness of the corridor a face is staring directly at your ward. Your heart starts to pound furiously as you can’t look away and it feels like whatever is there is looking through the sentry and into your soul.

You divert your gaze quickly to the sentry in front of Blake’s door, and see nothing, but then you quickly turn back to the other one and your heart lurches as now the distinct form a short woman with long, black hair and pale skin sits closer to your sentry, still immobile.

You gulp and break concentration, picking up Chaika in one hand and quickly turning to the Harmony and Saya. “Hurry, there’s something outside the door to the girl’s room, we need to head over there, now!”

The two don’t argue and you quickly scoop up Bubs and dash out of the room, magic primed as you dash down the hallway. You quickly check your sentries, which almost trips you to switch concentration like that, but the woman was gone! I fact, as soon as you reach the end of the hallway where the girl’s are, you find nothing. You look around, scanning with your [Mage sight] but feel nothing but a chill running down your spine as you do so.

“Where is it?” Asks Harmony in a low voice.

“I…. I don’t know.” You say, stumped. What the hells? There surely was someone there but…” You rub at your head and sigh. “What in the name of Solos?”

{Mmmm. I wonder…} mumbles Chaika from her perch on the staff.

You cock your head, {What’s that Chaika?} you ask, but before she can answer, the small candle Saya was holding flutters and then gutters our, plunging you into total darkness. Saya gasps a little and you close in next to her, quickly causing light to come forth from your staff.

You jump back some as directly before you, in the light of your staff, stands Xanthia, a small smile on her face.

“Oh dear, what have we here? Have you become lost?” She asks in a very slow and not at all disturbing voice.

You shiver some and then cough gently into your hand. “Y…yes, sorry. You see my daughter here needed to use the chamber pot and we all decided to go together. It’s quite scary for her, you see.”

Xanthia cocks her head, the smile still present. “Oh dear. There is a chamber pot located in your room. Please allow me to escort you back there. I wouldn’t want you to get lost…”

You looks nervously between the other two and then take Saya’s hand, squeezing it before smiling and answering, “Of course, of course… Thank you.”

She turns about and starts walking down the hallway in the small light of your staff. Which seems odd to you, because normally you produce much more light than this… You stare in confusion at your staff, but in the periphery of your vision you feel as if something if moving in the shadows, but whenever you turn to see it, there’s nothing there.

You grind your teeth at all this spooky shit, but you are quickly lead back to your room, and Xanthia opens the door for you. You usher in the other two and then look at the maid’s unchanging face.

“Thank you…” You say slowly, and she bows some.

“It is my pleasure. I do hope you refrain from wandering the halls again. It can be very… Dangerous.”

You stand up a little straight as she bows and steps away back toward the foyer and you close the door before instantly slamming up your wards and rubbing at your forehead. Oh gods, you were sweating, despite the chill. Saya sat next to you, concerned, but you have her a reassuring smile and cleaned yourself up.

“What was that?” Asks Harmony, concerned.

“It’s… I don’t know. But I do know that I’m rather afraid of that maid.”

Saya nods her head, “Me too…”

You rub her hair gently and then sigh deeply, looking over your sentries again. Still nothing in the hallways. You nod to Saya and pat her gently. “Hey little girl, get some sleep for me, alright?”

She gives you a pleading look before nodding her head slowly and crawling into the bed. Despite her misgivings, she’s asleep quickly and you’re left with Harmony who stares out at the door. She taps a foot and then shake her head after maybe an hour of nothing occurring.

“This is going to be a long night.” She says in a monotone voice.

You take in a deep breath to reply when you feel another movement on a sentry and you steel yourself to see what it is. It was the girl’s sentry again, but this time you watch as Tabitha slowly opens the door, dressed in naught but her under garments. She looks around the hallway slowly and then up to your sentry before looking down at her hand and walking down the hallway away from your room.

You blink, trying to make sense of this. What the hell just happened there? Tabitha would never walk around like that, and how did Victoria just let this slide? You frown deeply as the other sentry pings and you look in horror to see a naked and disheveled looking Hala leave her room. She stares up at your sentry with a strange, almost maniacal expression before turning and sprinting down the hall to the foyer.

It’s about that time that you start to hear something, like a faint scratching against your consciousness and you snap your focus back toward your room. Outside your door you hear a faint, scraping noise, like nails on limestone, and it rings against your mind in a way that makes your legs weak. You grit your teeth and endure as you feel something press against your wards and then stop suddenly before a low, horrible wailing fills your mind and you press your head in pain.

And just like that, it was gone. You blink in confusion and look about to see Chaika humming with power, a feeling of annoyance radiating off her. You try to ask her something but she cuts you off, seeming focused. It’s a short while later before she speaks in a low, annoyed tone.

{Damnit. I was afraid there might be ghosts here.}

{I’m sorry, did you just say, ‘Ghosts?’}

Chaika seems to regard your question as pure idiocy as she sighs, {Yes, ghosts, and I’m afraid they’ve come to possess your little party.}

{That doesn’t sound good at…}

{And probably rape you before killing all of you in a fit of fury, yes.} Chaika says, cutting you off.

You frown before sighing, {Yes, thank you for that.}

{Any time.} she replies nonchalantly.

{Right, okay then, so… Ghosts… That means… Spirits?}

{Ehhhh, sort of? More like spirits with lingering attachments to this world who become, well, a little insane until their desires are met.}

{I’m going to guess by desires you mean…?}

{Sexual, usually, although even more mundane reasons often become corrupt to the point of sexual insanity. I think it has to do with lingering magic from the Great awakening that Dollora performed…} She seems to muse on this for a moment before you continue, pressing.

{It sounds like you have intimate knowledge of them there Chaika.}

{Eh, I tried to make the place in Varruck haunted once, didn’t really work out and instead I got a pack of zombies.} She chuckles some {Hehe, ever seen a zombie rape someone? No door can save you from their power and their lust is ennndddlessss.}

You grunt before pushing yourself up from your sitting position. {Yeah, that’s nice you little psychopath, but what do we do about this situation? Are they going to try and get in again?}

She seems to consider for abit. {Probably not, your barrier made it not worth their while to try and get in, however if we go out, they would probably find us in quick order.}

You twitch before walking over the bed and kneeling down next to the delicately sleeping form of Saya. Yes, she still wore the body of a 19 year old, but you preferred to imagine her as her inner self. She was adorable in any case, and you just couldn’t allow her to be in danger from these spooky happenings. Still, you couldn’t abandon everyone else and now that the ghosts had possessed Hala and Tabitha, you were concerned that Veronica and Blake might be in danger.

You stroke Saya’s hair softly before you plant a light kiss on her forehead and then stand back up. Harmony walks over to you and puts a delicate, yet forceful hand on your shoulder and asks, “What’s wrong?”

You rub at your forehead before signing. “Ghosts.”

She is silent for a few moments before saying in a monotone, “Ghosts.”

“Yes, ghosts.”

You feel Bubs stirring from your pocket as he pops his head up out of your pocket. When he had crawled in there you had no idea but you watch as he starts to shiver.

{Did you just say, G…g…g….ghosts?!}

{Yes, ghosts, this place is haunted.}

{Uh oh… Look, maybe we should skedaddle out of here, maybe get some food or something? Yeah that sounds great, let’s do that.} he says, a little frantic.

{Are you afraid of ghosts?} You ask, curious.

Bubs shivers some more as he looks about nervously, {Ha, what? Me? Afraid of g..ghosts? Nooo! It’s not like I had a run in with a ghost in the sewers once or anything, nah, nah, I’m fine. How are you?}

You sigh and Harmony speaks up again, “What’s happened?”

“I think Tabitha and Hala were possessed and I’m afraid for them and the others. I think we need to brave it outside to get everyone together.”

“Well, that probably sounds fine, but ghosts? Come now wizard, that’s silly, there’s no such thing as ghosts.”

{Uh oh, she’s one of them.} Thinks Chaika, mentally rolling her eyes.

{Quiet you!} scorns Harmony over the mental net in your head. She huffs out loud before continuing. {It’s simply not possible for a spirit to just, linger around after death.}

{Aren’t you the spirit of a dead monster lingering about in a construct body?} you think back.

She waves a hand in a dismissive gesture. {Ugh, no, it’s totally different and… Look, we don’t have time for this. At the very least, the Lady and the maid are dangerous. I support grouping with the others and… We’ll see about your ghosts.}

{Okay miss prissy pants.} Chaika Spurs back.

Harmony delicately bends her constructed ass and slaps it, making a hollow metallic sound. {At least I can wear pants.}

Chaika devolves into a fit of furious swearing and Harmony laughs audibly, a farce that was entirely opposed to the true situation. You look down as you hear Saya stir and then slowly open her eyes, blinking.

“H…huh? What?” She asks blearily

You rub her hair and whisper, “It’s time to get up little one, looks there’s some scary stuff happening and we can’t stay here.”

Saya nods her head slowly and pushes herself up from the bed, rubbing at her eyes before shaking her head and taking a deep breath. She breathes out slowly before nodding again, resolutely. “Right, I’m readying to go Daddy.”

You smile and say, “That’s my girl,” before nodding to the others. “Alright. We’re good to move quietly over to Veronica’s room, be quick and quiet, and let’s make sure she’s safe.”

“What about the hero?” Harmony asks as you prepare to break your circle.

You sigh, “I don’t think Blake is in immediate danger at the moment, but we’ll get him next. I’d prefer not to split up if we can help it.”

You place your hand on the circle and with some concentration you break the magic running through it. You take a deep breath and slowly open the doorknob but stop, turning back to the others. “Things are about to get very, very spooky.”

You open the door and your little group quickly and efficiently moves down the dark, and distressing hallway. Despite having been down here once before, you felt the air around you feel oppressive, and you couldn’t help but feel that someone was watching you. You had no choice but to press on though, keeping a wary eye out for ghosts. You didn’t actually know what you’d do if you saw one, but you were fairly confident that they could be hurt by magic. Surely the communion matrix didn’t lie about that, right?

Well, regardless, you didn’t see anything ghost like on your way to the room, but in the very dim light of your staff, as so not to attract the attentions of Xanthia, you noticed that the paintings on the walls seemed a little… Off? You could have sworn there was a woman in the painting off the lakeside there and one in that terrace… Hmm. Oh well, whatever, you didn’t have time for that.

Soon enough you reach the room and you look to the others before nodding your head and then slowly opening the door, magic ready to cast. The door swings open slowly but surely, with a slight creaking sound that makes Bubs start to shiver again in your pocket. Inside the room, in the small light of your staff sat Veronica, wearing only her shift, bound and gagged.

You curse and usher the others inside before closing the door again behind you. As you do, you feel something through your [Remote sentry] and your spine stiffens as you see Xanthia suddenly outside the door to the room. You can hear her breathing loud and regular, the rhythm an exact match to your heartbeat, increasing in rate as the same time as you do. You make a silencing gesture to the others as you freeze in place, watching her stand there through your sentry.

She stays for what seems an eternity before merely turning to the side and disappearing down the hallway again. When she’s gone for at least a few seconds you slump down, letting out a long breath. The others look to you with concern and you wave your hand slowly.

“It was just… Just the maid. Go ahead and check on Veronica.”

Saya and Harmony trade a glance before nodding and slowly moving over to the bound woman and you catch up, casting more light, fearing the worst. Thankfully, she seemed to be alive, just unconscious, and you sigh in relief as the others move to remove her bindings, which appear to be made out of bedsheets. Did the possessed Tabitha do this?

“Hey, daddy, there’s something written on her chest her…” Saya says, pointing at the shift.

You narrow your eyes and read what seems to be written in blood, although you’re not certain whose, “Good girls should keep their mouths shut.”

You look at the other two before taking a deep breath. “Can we wake her?”

Harmony shakes her head. “She’s not responding to anything. Something really got her good, see?” She holds up a hand sticky with blood. “Back of her head is a mess.”

You grit your teeth and perform a <fast scan> to see that her humors are thankfully in place, and she doesn’t seem to have permanent damage, that you can tell anyway. You perform a quick [Mend], healing the wounds on her head before looking to Harmony.

“Think you can carry her? I don’t know why she wasn’t possessed like Tabitha, but I don’t want to leave her here.”

Harmony nods and scoops up the woman before looking over at the pile of meticulously cleaned armor in the corner. “What about her armor?”

You grit your teeth. They were great artifacts of the Order and you felt that losing them would be terrible, but if Veronica couldn’t don the armor, then what was the point? You’d have to just come back later for them, there was nothing else for it.

“Can’t I just wear it?” Asks Saya as she wanders over to the armor reaching out to grab a greave.

Your eyes go wide and you hiss, “No, stop!” But you’re too late and as soon as her hand touches the holy steel, she gasps and recoils back sharply, her hand steaming and melting.

Her eyes go wide as she looks down at her hand, which bubbled and melted the flesh. Tears form in the corners of her eyes and she starts shaking. You grab her quickly and hold her fiercely as she tries not to cry out in pain.

“Oh gods, honey are you alright? Shh, shh, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine, shhh.”

She sniffs again, “Ah…ah… It burns, it burns.”

You hug her again and watch as her hand slowly forms back into place and her shivering subsides. You hold her for a little after that before pulling back some and tugging her face to yours. “Hey there little girl, hey there, are you okay?”

She sniffs and looks down at her hand before nodding slowly. “I… I think so.”

You bow your head before signing in relief, “Holy artifact against monsters. I was afraid someone like yourself might be hurt by it, especially since it’s not being worn. Please don’t scare me like that again.”

Saya nods and wipes at her eyes. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know….”

You hug her again before helping her up. “It’s fine. We’ll leave it for now.”

{Why not just put it in your damned sack?} asks Chaika, as if it was obvious.

{Because, the magics involved in that armor would probably not sit well with the other magics in that bag, I don’t want an explosion in magical space, alright?}

She groans. {Fine, whatever. Ugh.}

You roll your eyes as Harmony hefty Veronica in her arms and your group moves to the door again. You check your sentries and find the coast to be clear and you quickly dart out of the room into the hallway, moving the opposite way to see Blake. As you do so, you hear a loud, echoing howl from a wolf thunder through the house, shaking your very bones. It obviously came from outside, and you were damn certain it was Hala who did it, but dear gods, had she ever been so loud?

You shake your head and continue forward when you stop again to notice that another painting seemed different. In fact, this one seemed to have now gained a person. You didn’t actually notice all the paintings before, but you knew damn well that each one only had one person if it had any at all. You narrow your eyes and stare at the painting, seeing nothing out of the ordinary, but still…

You have a strange idea and slowly reach into your [Sack of Holding +1] and pull out the [Darkness attuned compass]. The bone inside it swings wildly back and forth before performing a dead stop, pointing directly at the painting. Your eyes go wide and you look up to the see the additional person smiling widely, and suddenly she pulls herself halfway out of the portrait!

You step back in a panic as the ghost’s semi-corporeal body flows out of the painting without sound. You fumble for your magic and Chaika hisses, {No! Don’t blast it, or you’ll alert that thing! Let me handle it!}

You feel a pulse of power flow through Chaika and your compass starts to swing about wildly as she focuses. The ghost’s expression turns confused, and then outraged as she presses forward, her features becoming taut and horrendous. You raise your knife stick in reaction and from it a soft, purple glow emits and the ghost freezes, spasming before distending it’s jaw horrifically and dashing away through the wall.

You put a hand your chest, trying to calm down. This shit here was going to give you a premature heart attack, holy shit. As you catch your breath, Chaika mutters, {Damn, looks like all I can do is drive them off. We’d need someone like the Paladin or that Dullahan to exorcise them.}

{Delilah? She can do that?} you ask, confused.

{Probably, look, you can’t stay here, get going.} she says, rushing you.

You nod and get the others moving again, looking out for further dangers, but thankfully no other ghosts seemed to be present as you hurriedly dash into Blake’s room and close the door. You wait again to see if Xanthia would appear, to which she does not, before you sigh in relief.

“Uhm, wizard, you should see this.”

You turn about and look around the room, and your mouth slowly goes slack as you see that all over the walls, written in messy letters and in dark red fluid, was the same message over and over again. “I love you very much.”

It seemed to cover all the wall in varying scripts. You shudder to think where that much blood came from and you look over to the bed to see Blake laying there under the covers. You slowly remove the blanket from him and, to your surprise, find him totally fine. The fucker was just sleeping there, fully clothed!

You narrow your eyes and poke the man. He immediately jumps up, grabs your arm and forcibly throws you to the ground, pinning you there as he snarls, “Take that you ice queen!”

“What the fuck man!” You shout as you try to struggle out of his grasp.

He grits his teeth and then blinks in confusion before letting go of you in shock. “By the gods, Wizard, is that you? What are you…” He pauses as he looks around the room, taking the sight in.

“What the…” He whispers and you groan, pulling yourself up.

“Yeah, I should ask that you asshole, how the fuck did you sleep through this?”

He blinks and still looks stunned, “I didn’t hear anything, I was just asleep and…” He turns around quickly, looking around. “Where’s Hala?”

You sigh and put a hand on your head. “She’s not here. We think she was possessed by ghosts.”

Blake turns back around, his eyes narrowed. “Wizard, I swear to Solos, if you think I’ll buy into that ghost story again…”

Saya holds her hands up, “Wait, wait, he’s telling the truth! There actually are ghosts here!” She points to Veronica, “One possessed the lizard lady and she attacked Veronica here.”

Blake looks over to Veronica and his expression softens. “Oh gods, is she..?”

You wave a hand, “She’s fine, but we aren’t going to be if we don’t do something.”

Blake frowns and crosses his arms, “Like what?”

“Well, it sounds like we need to get the hell out of here for one thing, but I’m afraid that if we aren’t careful, we’ll run into the lady and her maid.” You shudder at that thought.

“Besides that, we now have Hala and Tabitha running around possessed with ghosts everywhere and no good way to fight them.”

Blake draws his sword from its scabbard and shrugs, “Lionsedge should be more than effective at cutting ghosts.”

” Yes that’s all well and good, but getting into a fight with them could end up poorly. Besides, do you really think you could cut Hala if she attacked you.”

Blake’s face pales some as he considers. “So then what do we do?”

“It sounds like we either need Veronica or Deliliah to help with an exorcism. Sadly our resident paladin is unconscious.”

Blake grunts, “So that means going back to the cart while these things around around… Great.” He thinks for a moment, “Do you know where those two went?”

You shrug, “I think Tabitha went further into the mansion but Hala… Might be outside.”

Blake frowns. “Well then group, I think the best bet is to split up.”

{Zoinks, that sounds like a bad idea.} says Bubs, starting to shiver again,

{Zoinks?} you think back, amused.

{Shut up and let me have my moments.}

You sigh and rub your head. “That sounds pretty dangerous Blake, I don’t think we’d be in a good shape if we were attacked.”

He shrugs, “If we travel in a large group, then we are likely to attract the attention of the lady and the maid, no? This way we can find both our missing members and be more stealthy.”

You think about it for a moment and then sigh. “Very well then…”

Blake thinks for a moment. “Alright, you go with miss Harmony and grab Delilah and I’ll stick with Saya.”

You bluster back, “What? No, I’m not leaving you alone with my little girl!”

Saya huffs and walks over to Blake, putting a hand on her hip. “Daddy, I think I can take care of myself, especially if Mr. Boudreaux is here.” She smiles up at him, “Right?”

He nods slowly, looking in your eyes like a man trained in the art of smooth talking fathers. “I promise nothing shall befall her.”

You grind your teeth before you sigh kneel down to look her in the eye. “Peel back the flesh on one of your fingers, okay?”

She looks at you, a little confused, but does so until the bone is showing on her right pointing finger. Using a knife, you delicately carve the [Sigil of Light] on it and infuse if with magic, and in no time the finger bone glows with a bright light, causing your little girl’s face face to light up.

“Oh, wow, thanks Daddy!” She says, forming skin and flesh over it and back to turn the light off and on.

You smile, rub her head, and fish Bubs out of your pocket, handing him to Saya. “Bring him with you, so we have some kind of link, alright?”

Saya nods and you look back at Blake, making a gesture with your two fingers to your eyes, then pointing back at him. He nods, unimpressed, and finishes putting his gear on, muttering about why all of Hala’s clothes are all over the ground.

You nod to Harmony and she continues carrying Veronica as you head to the door. You take a deep breath again and open it before everyone piles out and the two groups head down their separate ways, soon losing each other in the dark hallways. You constantly check through Bub’s eyes for anything untoward or spooky, but thankfully you see nothing as you come to the opening foyer.

You approach slowly and look about, making damn certain the maid is not here, and thankfully she isn’t. As you look down to the first floor though, you notice something odd. In the center of the room, surrounded by a sea of rose petals, sat a chair. Not an ornate chair by any means, but a sturdy, functional chair. It was currently empty, but as you stared at it, Chaika began to hyperventilate some. If that were possible.

{Oh gods where did that come from? There’s no fucking chairs in this place, why is it there? Where did rose petals come from? Why is there a chair there?!}

{Calm down!} you chide as you make your way downstairs. You even check with the compass and see no big spookiness, causing you to frown. {Hrm, nothing here…}

{Wizard…} Chaika hisses. {This isn’t right, I know it.}

{Yeah, well, it’s not going to kill us yet, so we’ll deal with it later.} you say, heading to the door, but making a wide berth from the chair, just in case. Harmony does the same behind you, effortlessly gliding past the petals while carrying Veronica. You focus on the door wordlessly before opening it and slipping outside into the cold night.

And it was cold. Like, it was chilly before, but this was practically subarctic or something and you were fucking freezing. You huddle up at the cold and then realize that poor Veronica was half naked. Poor girl, but nothing to be done for it.

You trade through the cold night, and the utter darkness of the place, lit only by your staff makes you shiver even more so. The dead trees swayed and creaked in the night wind and the flowing of the fountain ate into your soul. Every now and then you felt like you could hear a moaning in the wind and you shuddered. Ugh, fucking ghosts.

Looking to your compass as you moved, you see a sudden spike in the direction and you eyes snap to the mansion to see the face of a young woman staring at you from the window before she slowly puts a hand to the glass. Then another. Then another. Then more and more and more and more until the whole glass is full of hands.

And then they’re gone and the compass returns to normal. FUCKING GHOSTS GODS DAMN IT.

Of course, seeing this, you basically hurriedly run through the ground to the stables and thankfully find the wagon where you left it and you rush to the back for Delilah. She’s still there, eyes closed as she smokes delicately from your pipe, an expression of serenity across her face. As you approach she opens her mouth slightly to say,

“Go away Mr. Snuggles, I won’t fall for your tricks twice.”

“That’s nice Delilah, have you come down yet?”

She blinks and looks up at you slowly before grumbling. “Oh, it’s just you. Yeah, I guess so, kind of was a little miserable for awhile, but damn was it nice while it lasted.” She seems to reflect fondly upon something, “Even when the mushroom King told me he loved me.”

You look to Harmony who shrugs, not wanting anything to do with this. You sigh and shake your head. “Look, Delilah, we need your help.”

“Probably with those damn ghosts, huh? Yeah, they’ve been abit of a pest until I showed them over wise.”

You release your breath and nods to her. “You can exorcise ghosts?”

“Well, as part of my duties I sometimes had to forcibly escort souls to Nerg, so yes, in a way.”

“Well Hala and Tabitha were possessed and we need your help to free them.”

She frowns and considers this for a moment. “I dunno, it’s not like I have that much power really, what with being merely a starved head in a wagon, abandoned by everyone…”

“One, you asked me to leave you here and two, what do you mean by starved.”

“Haven’t had a semen recharge in ages, which really…”

Shes’s cut off by a loud howling again and you flip around searching. That sounded crazy close and you flip out the compass to see there was something directly ahead of you. Your eyes go wide as you hear a loud, crashing noise and then out from the bushes lopes Hala on all fours, moving quick as a blink.

You cry out and raise Chaika, but Hala is upon you in an instant, slamming you back against the wagon and knocking aside your knife stick. She presses her naked body against your form and she growls softly, “Hello Wizard, fancy seeing you here tonight.”

She sniffs you gently before dragging her tongue against your neck. “You look good enough to eat.”

Of course, that’s right when Harmony two-handed hammer blows her across the back of the head, dropping the wolf into a heap that quickly rolls away from you, growling in pull battle mode, her hair bristling as her smooth skin glistens in the fey light of your staff.

She barks and then charges Harmony, teeth bared, but the construct stands firm as a wall, and when the possessed girl charges her, she barely budges, and folds in on the wolf, awkwardly trapping her.

The wolfgirl struggles vainly, spotting curses and you panic, looking for something to do when Delilah screams, “Press my head against hers! Quickly!”

Without hesitation you do so, grabbing the head and quickly pressing it to the other monster’s. You watch in fascination then as Delilah quickly shifts her position and presses her mouth against Hala’s, causing her eyes to go wide.

You see Delilah’s mouth move in quick rhythmic gestures and soon Hala’s struggles slow down as her eyes start to roll back and she begins to moan lowly, lost in the passionate embrace of mouths initiated by the Dullahan. The process is faster than you felt it was, but as if reaching the appropriate points, Delilah jerks and you pull her back, a string of saliva connecting to Hala’s mouth dripping downward.

You felt a strange stirring in your loins at the sight uh, chose not to act on it as you watched the show. Slowly, Hala’s body began to convulse and shake while Harmony shifted to an easier to hold position, keeping the wolfgirl still as she jerked about. After what seemed like a critical mass, Hala’s eyes flew open and from her mouth vomited out a string of what seemed like clear mucus.

The stuff congealed on the ground in a pile before you and Hala began to cough and Delilah nodded, impressed. “Didn’t think I still had it in me.”

You look at the goo and frown, “is that uh…?”

“The ghost? Yes, or what’s left of it anyway. Damn things always such a mess when they’re destroyed.” She turns to you. “Well I had enough energy to save your wolf, but if you need anything else, I’m kind of tapped.”

You frown and look to Veronica, grunting. Damnit, well maybe once you found Blake he could take one for the team. Speaking of which, as you had that thought you hear a message from Bubs.

{Uh, hey big guy? Blake things he sees something.}

{What do you mean?}. You send back, concerned.

{Well, he says he say movement ahead and shut off the light. He’s moving very slowly and… No wait he just stopped and….something is moving ahead, making a soft noise and… Giggling?}

{Bubs…. What are you talking about?}

He’s silent for a long time before shouting back, {Oh gods it’s the maid, oh fuck, oh shit, oh fuck, she had the hero and…!}

You feel Bub’s panic and squeak before his essence seems to full in your mind. You stare down at the recovering wolf and you feel a tightness in your chest. Oh gods, she had your little girl and Bubs. Oh and Blake too, but whatever.

Then another thought hit you. Now it was up to you to deal with Tabitha, and her sword was missing from her room.

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