First thing in the morning, we readied ourselves for the trip to the burned mansion. We hoped to find Martin there, and we expected to find the doctor, perhaps with some animated monstrosity.

Since Carmella, Jason, Prestley, and I were barred from entering the ghost wood by the Druidess after Carmella set fire to it, we stopped at the edge of the wood. Ash entered, by himself, to ask her for permission for our entrance. I hoped he was successful: the druidesses both seem to favour him, as he favours the wild places they serve and care for.

As we stood at the edge, waiting for him to return, it began raining. José rummaged around in his robes and pulleed out a small paper umbrella, which he placed on his head. It looked silly, but with a few mumbled words, it served to keep him dry while the rest of us were soaked within minutes. He apologized, saying he could only do that magic on himself. Miara was quite interested in the little paper form, and said she could make him more to keep on hand.

We stood around in the rain for an hour or more before Ash returned. He stammered, "No fire," and motioned for us to follow him. Apparently he had succeeded. I sent a sharp glance at Carmella, who pretended an innocence she had no right to. We followed Ash into the thick woods, which sheltered us from much of the rain until we reached the clearing that held the mansion.

The storm worsened as we tromped through the woods. By the time we arrived, a strong wind whipped around us, swirling leaves. Huge, heavy rain drops hit us, feeling almost like hail, and lightning continually lit the sky, followed closely by sharp cracks of thunder. We all jumped as a bolt of lightning hit a tree at the edge of the woods as we emerged, altogether too close to us. It split the trunk and half the tree fell with a heavy thud, but in the heavy rain, the sparks didn't ignite into fire.

The mansion itself was a dark, jagged figure in the clearing. Tangled vines crawled all over the broken stones of what was left of its walls. Over in one corner, a new addition, a tall metal rod, reached into the sky and pulled the lightning to it. We all exchanged glances: the doctor had to be there, harnessing the lightning for his dark purposes. What kind of monster, or monsters, would we find waiting for us? How does one kill the animated dead? What else did the supposedly haunted mansion hold in store of us? I shook my head to clear it: the gloomy, destroyed mansion and the storm with its light show was getting to me.

We could hear a door banging open and closed, and we approached it. It was in far better shape than it had any reason to be: someone had put it in place not too long ago. Likely, whatever we were looking for was behind it. Jason held it open: stairs descended into darkness.

José pulled a rock out of his robes, muttered over it, and it glowed gently, its warm light reaching through the cold rain. He handed it to Goldrim, who attached it to his helmet. Carmella brought the zoggin rock out, which made her eyes glow almost immediately, and little dancing lights to bob around her head, so she could see. On one hand, she had actually made the rock do what she wanted without a fire demon appearing. On the other, all she needed to do now was take it out with the intention of using it, and her eyes began to glow.

Hy took the lead, with his ability to see clearly in the dark. Ash followed, then Miara, José, Prestley, me, Carmella, Goldrim, and Jason.

At the bottom of the steps was another door. Hy motioned back to Prestley, moved forward and asked that light be held on the door. José held up another glowing rock, and Prestley swept his look through the door and reported what he saw on the other side. This door opened into the side of a hall about fifteen feet long with oil lamps burning on its walls. On the short end to the right was a dark room that looked like him to be the old jail/torture chamber. Across the hall from our door was another door with the remains of a wine cellar. To the left was a room with another room on its far wall. All he could see was piles of the remnants of furniture and shelving and other dreck. He couldn't see into the second room at all. That had to be where the doctor was.

José said the door was magically locked shut and we wouldn't be able to open it. That didn't mean we couldn't knock a hole through it, though.

To José's question of what to do with the door, Miara said, "We knock!" Goldrim chuckled and moved forward. With two blows of his maul, he wrecked the door, and two more cleared the debris for an easy entrance.

We filed through the remains of the door, and Prestley noted that the hinges were on the outside of the door rather than the inside: it had been build to keep things in, not out. That couldn't be good.

We looked to Miara, and she said to go left. We didn't really expect anything else: we knew where he had to be.

The door at the end of the hall was locked. Prestley again looked through the door. He and Goldrim both described what he saw in unison: Goldrim's vision would have warned us if Prestley was unable to gaze through solid objects. They saw a large man sitting up from a large slab.

Prestley continued looking, though. He said the first room was full of the remains of furniture, and a large pile of it had been slid against the door: as soon as we opened it, it would cascade over us. The other room, which Prestley's unique vision could now see, appeared to be a working, if disorganized, lab, filled with "weird electrical things and wires and chemicals and magical-looking equipment."

The doctor was there in a white lab coat, waving his arms around wildly; a large, stitched-together corpse was sitting up on a slab; a hunchback was standing before some of the electrical doo-dads. Prestley said the doctor was mumbling something, but he couldn't tell what it was.

Prestley opened the lock, and Goldrim set himself up to open the door and control the fall of the debris. Then we could all go in. Goldrim's visions came to warn us again: he said he a ghostly face, terrifying, screaming at him for a moment. We didn't have any better plan, nor did we know just what that vision meant, so we told him to open the door. Prestley stood aside, out of the way with the rest of us, and Goldrim did so. As he eased the debris harmlessly to the floor, I heard a loud clatter behind us. Jason had fallen to the floor and was in convulsions.

I went to Jason's side, Carmella fainted by my side, and a chill went down my spine: colder than ice, colder than death, and the knowledge that there are things in the night that we can't see will haunt me forever.

I guessed that whatever had touched me had also touched Jason, sending him into seizures. There was nothing I could do for him, so I formed the first rune from the book that I ever used, and flung it into the darkness. I immediately knew that it was of no use against whatever the thing was, hidden in the dark.

Carmella was merely unconscious, and I thought she was probably better off that way. José had turned to look, and was standing gazing into the dark, slack-jawed, as Carmella had at the sight of the skeletons in Kreuzhofen. I could help none of them, but I knew there was some sort of animated dead figure in the other room. I borrowed the dagger from Carmella that turns skeletons to dust, thinking someone might use it against the creature in the room. I tried not to think about the other thing: I was sure there was nothing we could do against it.

I held the dagger awkwardly, away from me: I was forbidden to use such things, and it felt very wrong in my hand. I told it I would not use it as I crept to the door and peered inside the room.

The dreaded creature was there, fighting off Goldrim and Ash. I didn't see Hy, and Miara was struggling across a floor filled with debris that seemed to almost suck at her feet. Prestley was near the door, hanging back from the battle. He had used the dagger before, and he is small: perhaps he could crawl up to the creature while it was busy: if the dagger would do anything, the merest touch would be enough. I touched Prestley on the arm and handed the dagger to him. I was glad to let it go into someone else's hands.

As I did so, Miara fell to her knees and tried desperately to stand back up again. It took an effort, but finally she succeeded and in a few quick strides reached the other door and went through it. Prestley did indeed creep close to the battle, and waited for an opportunity to reach in with the dagger. José came around me and into the room, muttering to himself.

All at once, the creature fell after one last blow from Ash. And the terrifying apparition flitted through the room. It touched Goldrim, who started but seemed otherwise fine. Prestley dropped the dagger and lost his mind, running in circles and screaming. Ash simply stood, staring into nothing as had José earlier. I swiftly took out my book and started leafing through it madly, hoping some rune would make itself known to me that I could use against the frightful thing before it turned us all into jibbering madmen.

It and José looked at each other for a few moments, and nothing happened. José asked me what to do with it since it wasn't attacking him, but the moment he began to speak, it did. José immediately let loose the spell he'd been holding for so long: the floating head was momentarily engulfed by flames. It floated towards José, but he stepped quickly out of the way. He dodged it a few times, trying in vain to pick up the dagger that had fallen to the floor. He finally picked it up, then touched the ghostly figure with it and fell to a faint on the floor.

Desperately, I leafed through my book. Perhaps my terror blocked my mind, but I saw nothing but meaningless symbols. Ash came back to himself, but ignored the threat. Instead, he he took an axe to the creature on the ground, hacking it into the smallest pieces he could. I think Miara's rubbing off on him. Finally, he retrieved the dagger from José and searched for the ghost, or whatever it was, but it was gone again.

Jason, who had recovered from his fit, came into the room and we looked to see what was in the other room, where both Hy and Miara had disappeared. The doctor and some hunchbacked man Id never seen before were on the floor, dead, their heads cut off. Miara also lay on the floor, in a coma from which I couldn't wake her. She had not a mark on her, so I suspect the ghostlike creature touched her. And probably Hy, who was sitting on the floor jibbering and drooling.

Jason hoisted Hy and Miara over each shoulder, Ash carried Prestley and Goldrim carried Carmella. It took us several minutes to get up the stairs, although we moved as quickly as we could, wanting to get away before the apparition came after us again.

José and Hy came to themselves again at the top of the staris, letting us move much more quickly. We moved into the woods, where I took a moment to bandage wounds, then we returned to town.

We told the whole story to the dorfrichter, who was horrified. We had also confirmed the rumours that the mansion was haunted. I doubt the entire story will get out, and the rumours of a haunting should help keep anyone from going to the mansion for a long time.

I healed everyone back at the inn, José made us a warm, fortifying meal, and we retired for the evening, exhausted and somewhat haunted still. I couldn't bear for the room to be dark, although I had always preferred sleeping in dark places like my cell at the monastery. But not now: Miara blew out the candle, and the darkness pressed in on me, sending cold shivers that I remembered down my back. I nearly ran in the dark to open our door and let a little light in. Somehow I hated admitting my weakness to Miara, but I just could not sleep in that room with no light at all. I had to keep a candle burning all night.

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

~ Traditional Scottish Prayer
Back to the story

Ravenna, A Monk of the Biancan Order

Part the First:
Blood and Mud

Part the Second:
Murder and Mayhem

Part the Third:
Puzzles and Crystals

Part the Fourth:
Dwarves and Rocks

Part the Fifth:
Diplomacy and Daggers

Part the Sixth:
Crystal and Chaos

Part the Seventh:
Sheer Insanity

~ The End ~