Starday, 2nd of Rova, Early Evening
The amnesiacs arrange a ship to transport them to Caliphas, and leave immdiately.
Moonday, 4th of Rova, Early Morning
After arriving in the Ustalavic capital, the group visited the markets, to convert several items from their stash to currency, and then carried the body of River to the local temple of Sarenrae. They quickly arrange a revival and restoration, and almost immediately returned to the docks, to arrange passage back to Thrushmoor.
During the trip back, River was able to request a spell from Sarenrae to cure Lekovi’s Blindness.
Oathday, 6th of Rova, Dawn
Upon arrival in Thrushmoor, the group visited Winter and Cessadia to check on the situation in town. Both said that things had quieted down, and that the level of disappearances had certainly decreased, but that there were still a few people reported as going missing. The group then returned to Iris Hill.
They found the gates closed, but not locked, nor trapped. Inside the gatehouse, they found the bodies of several Kuru and cultists. All had died of various wounds, and been exsanguinated. River, taking no chances, decapitated each of the bodies to ensure they did not rise again.
The buildings all appeared to be in roughly the same condition as when the group had left. The windows on the top floor of the mansion were still open, the doors still closed on the buildings. A quick sweep of the outbuildings showed no change. Moving into the main building, the group moved cautiously through the areas they had not explored before, finding nothing living.
The rear-central portion, which was the main entrance, proved to contain a large collection of artworks and curios. Searching through everything here revealed little of monetary value, but several items of interest, including
- Portraits in various artistic styles of the counts, their wives, and a few relatives and domestics wearing all kinds of expressions and outfits lined the walls. A portrait in a freestanding picture frame on a small tea table with a single chair features Lowls as a child (“Haserton at age 5, 4681 ar,” is written on the back of the frame) posing near a kitten at the foot of a luminous window, seemingly terrified. Fromt he artwork, Taber was able to deduce that the painter intentionally created a frightening situation for the child and then expended great efforts to seize his wide-eyed expression.
- Marble busts of scholars from the Sincomakti School of Sciences, including three effigies of academically renowned ancestors of Lowls sit on small plinths. The sculptures with the Lowls name on their bases had been smashed against the floor and damaged.
- Small-town perspectives of Thrushmoor and a half-dozen large paintings of the surrounding landscape hang here. The large pictures included a historic piece, in which the first settlers of Thrushmoor were shown living in two clusters of huts on low hills, hard at work to reclaim the surrounding land from the swamps. The three Star Stelae had been depicted almost as an afterthought. The picture also showed the Iris Hill Stelae, and that Iris Hill was originally shorter.
- Statuettes of dragons, giants, and strange beasts littered the shelves. Among these was a poorly executed, 1-foot-tall, clay figurine of an elephant-legged, multimawed, tentacled aberration. Cailyn felt this creature looked eerily familiar, but neither she nor Lekovi could identify it.
- Set on an ebony pedestal was a human skull that has been marked with elaborate carvings of geometric shapes and lines. Small, worked garnets were set in the teeth, and a thin line of silver ringed the eye sockets.
- Porcelain and ceramic dishes, jugs, teapots, and vases, some of which were of excellent quality, were kept in a glass showcase. A small ceramic vial contained a silvery metallic dust. Lekovi found this to be magical, and was able to identify it as Dust of Appearance.
- Worthless, bizarre, and sometimes grotesque souvenirs from across Ustalav and beyond were displayed here: coffee cups made from uncapped monkey skulls; a stuffed three-eyed bat; multicolor-dyed freshwater sponges; a mummified ogre’s ear; and more.
- A battered shield hangs on a wall, bearing the device of Mendev. According to a plaque fixed under it, the shield belonged to Fassimar Lowls. The shield was a nonmagical heavy steel shield.
Lastly, and most prominently, a man encased in a field of amber light was discovered, facing the entryway. The man was dressed in similar well-to-do clothing to the other cultists the group had encountered. Lekovi and Scorcher were able to identify the amber field as the effects of a Sepia Snake Sigil.
The third room on the bottom floor of the house contained an impressive library – the entire room was lined with ceiling-high shelves, all laden to the brim with tomes, scrolls, and stacks of paper, sagging under the weight. Amber-coloured crystal lamps were fixed to the walls, with more on central tables and a desk.
The books in the room contained many widely known books on common areas of knowledge. Many related to matters within Ustalav, but others detailed subjects from throughout the Inner Sea region. Two crates near the fireplace contained several printed copies of two books written by Count Lowls – A History of the History of Versex and The Stars Are Not Among Us: An Undeniable Refutation of the Works of the Doomsaying Pseudo-Scholar Dr. Henri Meirtmane. On top of the crates was an envelope containing a letter signed by a Miacknian Munn, which had apparently accompanied a delivery of alchemical goods. In the letter, evidently answering a question posed by Lowls, Mun confirmed that “It seems that the Mad Poet you met in your dream journey was right. The book you seek, the Necronomicon, is located in a special collection called the Mysterium in the Qadiran city of Katheer, though it is written in Necril. If you can find a way to retrieve it and bring it to me, I can certainly help you translate and research it. I look forward to seeing you again, my old friend.”
Among the more mundane works were a number of research books regarding dreams and how to manipulate them. These books discuss methods by which an individual can choose to appear in someone else’s dream; one even includes an overview of the Dreamlands. Notes and marked pages indicate that Lowls was using dreams as a method of research, wherein he would project his consciousness into the Dreamlands to meet with people and creatures there. One such figure is someone he refers to as the Mad Poet, who offered to show him the way to a forgotten city in return for sacrificing his assistants’ minds.
A rug in the corner of the room was discovered to be hiding a locked trap door. The group decided to leave it locked while they checked the rest of the house.
Moving upstairs to the second floor, the group again found little had changed. The various bodies were still lying were they had fallen, although all proved to have been exsanguinated. The contents of most of the rooms were as they had been, except the personal effects had been cleared out of the northernmost room, which had originally contained the vat of vinegar.
The amnesiacs then moved upstairs to the attic, from the main bedroom. The stairs up seemed to have been unused for a very long time, as evidenced by the piled dust and cobwebs. The attic itself was a large open space, directly under the roof, 15’ tall along the roof line, with the beams, trusses and rafters visible in the dim light from a few dormer windows. Several crates were scattered around, and several ugly, fibrous plants in clay pots. The air smelled of dust, mold and decay.
The only inhabitant of the area appeared to be an old woman, dressed in shabby black dress and black veil. Even in the dim light, the woman was clearly not normal. Tentacular protrusions were visible, poking out from the dress, and one side of the woman’s face was clearly not human any more. The group recognised the woman as a physical version of the spirit manifestation they had encountered previously in town.
On seeing the group, the woman backed away, and shouted at them to leave her alone, and not look at her. She covered the unnatural side of her face with her arms, and backed away. River and Scorcher attempted to calm her down, but their efforts proved futile, and she soon lashed out at the group. The group reluctantly moved in, and surrounded her, but found that their blows were largely ineffectual. Her unnaturally rubbery flesh appeared to resist the attacks that did land.
The woman did fight back, but also found it difficult to harm anyone in the well-armoured group, especially after Lekovi applied a psychic effect that swapped around the input from her senses. Eventually, a blow was landed that knocked the woman out. Not knowing what else to do, the group restrained her unconscious form for later transport to Winter. A search of the room located a folding leather pouch hidden in one of the potted plants. The pouch was full of gems and jewellery.
Finished with the main part of the mansion, the group now returned to the trap door in the library, and descended into the depths of Iris Hill.
The trap door led to a set of stairs, which eventuall opened out into a wine cellar. The doors were locked, but Cailyn made short work of the locks. The shelves in the room were neatly stacked with glass and clay bottles, tiny kegs, decanters, mugs and crystal goblets.
A long corridor led out of the cellar, past a door, and ended in the centre of a wider cross hallway. The door, unlocked, led into a side room that appeared to have been used as a cell. Two heavy wooden pallets with manacles were present, but little else. The wider hallway walls were covered in tapestries, one of which had been defaced with another Yellow Sign of Hastur. A set of double doors were at one end of the hallway, while another corridor at the other end led into a smaller room, containing a coffin.
Cailyn went to the double doors, while River went to the room with the coffin. River saw the room was some sort of storage facility, but standing in the room was a rotund man, wearing a black coat, with a dead-looking expression on his face. He immediately moved to attack the group, and River and the others were filled with a sense of gloom and repulsion. The man reached out and touched River, draining some of his life essence, and revealing itself as some form of unliving monstrosity.
Taber and the two spellcasters moved to support River, Scorcher opening by launching a Fireball into the room behind the creature, destroying most of the room’s contents, and setting the rest ablaze. Lekovi attempted to interfere with the creature’s attacks unsuccessfully, while Taber and River pounded on the creature.
As the rest of the group engaged the creature, Cailyn continued checking the door she was beside, and detected a sound of movement behind it. Fearing ambush from another quarter, she threw the door open, and found a humanoid dressed in Qadiran-style elaborate clothing, with turned-up toes on her boots, and a hood and face covering. Something about the woman did not seem to be human, as she had talon-like nails, and something about her shape under the clothing just…seemed wrong. Cailyn made her companions aware of the danger, and moved to engage, but was surprised when the woman bit him, draining some of the speed from her limbs. Lekovi looked, and identified the creature as a Denizen of Leng, and extraplanar near-humanoid from the otherworldly domain of Leng, a place rumoured to be found only in a dimension of dreams.
As the rest of the group finished off the rotund undead creature, they moved down to assist Cailyn in fighting off the Denizen of Leng, who proved a tough opponent, but was soon slain. As she died, her body disappeared, along with her clothing and possessions.
Further exploration showed that the room the Denizen of Leng had inhabited was a crypt. The walls were decorated throughout with finely wrought Pharasmin symbols, culminating in a seven-foot-high bas-relief of the goddess’ face on the southern wall. Seven sarophagi were arranged around the room, and dozens of burial recesses riddled the walls. Three of the sarcophagi were uncovered. The recently-dead body of a woman in rich clothing lay on one of the sealed sarcophagi, with a strange device attached to her. Cailyn recognised the woman as the missing royal accuser, Omari. Lekovi was able to identify the device as Confabulation Plates, which would allow communication with a dead person or plant. The group activated the plates, and confirmed Omari had not had time to gather any evidence against the Count, and that she had been slain at the fort.
Searching the crypt turned up a number of long-dead ancestors and servants of the Lowls family. Inside one of the crypts was a longsword, that turned out to be magically enchanted. As well as being enhanced, it glowed with a pale purple light when picked up. Cailyn was also able to determine that the large bas-relief sculpture of Pharasma was designed to swing out of the way, revealing a staircase descending further into the hill.
The group went back to the earlier areas first, and continued exploring the former storage area. Although the contents had been mostly destroyed by the earlier fireball, a melted lump of silver was located amongst the wreckage. A length corridor stretched east, and another north from this area. The eastern corridor ended at a well. The northern corridor ended at an ice cellar. Despite earlier caution, the group failed to notice a glyph of warding placed on the corridor leading to the ice cellar, and set it off, harming River and Cailyn. A ladder from the ice cellar led up to the kitchen.
Backtracking to the crypt, the amnesiacs descended to the lowest level of Iris Hill. The staircase opened onto a short corridor, which then ended at a much longer cross corridor. The northern end led into a circular chamber, and the southern end led into a large rectangular chamber. Moving first to the north, the group found the third of the Thrushmoor Star Stelae, standing on a platform of natural bedrock. Unlike the other two Stelae, this one was glowing with a pale, yellow light. Blood stains, old and new, and bloodless body parts marred the floor surrounding the monument. Despite the gore not being fresh, the room stank strongly of blood. The remains showed that, clearly, a large number of people had been killed in this room over a lengthy period of time. This was likely the resting place of the missing people from the town.
Moving back to the southern end of the corridor, stepping into the large rectangular chamber immediately set off another glyph of warding. The room itself resembled the courtyard of an ancient, subterranean palace, with columns supporting a 30-foot-high cloister dome. In the middle of the floor, a tile mosaic of the Yellow Sign emitted a thing, yellow vapor that filled the room with a faint odoyr of chrysanthemums. The vapour rose to the concave dome of the vaule, through which an image of the minarets, towers and spires of a mysterious city silhouetted against a yellow sky could be seen. The image swayed softly with a slow alternation of light and darkness, to the sound of invisible pipes and strings. At the far end of the chamber, a marble throne sat within a semicircular apse. A floor to ceiling band of gilded mosaics decorated the walls, depicting a fantastic urban landscape populated by figures in flowing robes and full-face masks.
As strange and fantastic a sight as this was, the room was also deserted. A search of the room revealed little else, although stashed behind the throne was an ancient book, written in Aklo. Lekovi recognised the 10 pound, 500 page book as a copy of the Pnakotic Manuscripts.
At this point, the group feel they have reached the end of a stage of their journey, and must prepare for their next steps. Perhaps reflection and research would provide some clues as to what those steps should be.