Ahead of our intrepid adventurers rises the swaybacked bulk of a once-grand house looming over a garden gone wild with creeping vines, tall weeds, and disheveled ornamental trees. Here and there, mossy statues and stone benches stand in the shade. At ground level stands a pair of doors, pockmarked by the elements and wreathed in masses of ivy. Traces of a brick patio are faintly visible through the weeds and moss that blanket the ground. A few freshly-cracked, sagging stairs rise perhaps 10 feet to a pair of weather-beaten doors flanked by filthy windows. A pair of moss-covered statues stand on the ground, one on each side of the stairs. Five more statues stand beneath the ancient tree. Gargoyles sit on the corners of the house… Observant members note that they’ve moved in order to watch their approach. The timbers and floorboards creak loudly as they come to the door, a constant unnerving cacophony in their ears…
The inside of the mansion is lifeless. It has seen better days, and the creaking of dry, ancient timbers is even worse in here. The team makes its way through a couple of rooms, mostly filled with musty fragments of furniture. The kitchen, however, is filled with rotting leftovers from whomever was last using it… fairly recently. The pantry off the kitchen is colder than the rest of the house… some sort of spell keeps it as such.
Further into the house, in what appears to be a ballroom-turned-workroom, the team finds an interesting armoire with a chest next to. As Aluven investigates, a giant gaping maw appears in the chest, and it tries to swallow him whole. And before the rest of the team can spring into action, a pair of Cloakers drop from the ceiling, wrapping themselves around the heroes.
Who knows if it was the constant unnerving moan from the Cloakers or the creepy old house, but our party had a tough time with this force of lurkers. Fighting from the inside of a large creature has its difficulties, to be sure. Eventually, however, the last moan faded as the creatures were slaughtered, and the hunt continued.
Upstairs, the team meets one Jaccobux Kincep, once the owner of the mansion, he is now simply a ghost, still trying his best to read everything in his library. Dow and Jaccobux get off to a rough start… our Paladin seems to still be shaken from the ambush below and is not in the mood to converse with those beyond the grave.
And truly, Jaccobux wants to be left alone, that’s all he’s ever wanted. He explains that there was a group of elementals and drow and others there, that they asked him for some information about the Divine Engine, but that generally they left each other alone. They left as the heroes had approached…
… as they talk, Orden hears a scream from somewhere else in the mansion, and others notice that the air is becoming smoky. While they had been talking, various fires had been lit around the mansion. It soon becomes clear that the screams are coming from the stables outside, though everyone is having a tough time getting there. Zorian goes to the kitchen and begins dumping bucketfuls of water onto any fires he can, buying time for the party to get out. Ashoril, remembering the cold pantry, spends some time to learn its secrets. Orden, while helping the distraught ghost collect important books and papers to save, kills an intruder – a creature made of spark and flame, apparently responsible for starting the fires.
With no other route to escape, Dow ends up jumping out the window and crashing through the stables’ roof. Inside, he can barely make out the bound figure of a strange, lion-like humanoid, struggling against his bonds and coughing on the acrid smoke. Ashoril, for a short time able to control the cold from the pantry, is able to clear a path to safety for Dow and the fallen creature, who they later learn is known as a Torrian.