As we get closer to the mansion we can see that there must be activity inside. Columns of greasy smoke churn from the chimneys on the roof as the smell of burning wax pervades the area. All of the windows are boarded, however… which makes me wonder. Are they trying to keep things out, or in?
Melchior seems to notice something on the ground and kneels down for a moment to inspect the dirt. “Hmmn…. there seem to be tracks coming from the house, but none going in that I can find.”
“That goes along with what Alagon said, then,” says Vedis. “Storykin are reborn in there and come out, but don’t have any reason to go in.”
“Assuming we’re going to avoid the main entrance again, shall we see if we can find a back door?” I suggest. The rest of the group nods in agreement and we make our way around the house to find a nondescript back door for me to investigate.
After a few moments I whistle as I follow some cleverly hidden wires to a set of holes in the ceiling with the remnants of wax around the edges. “I get the feeling that they don’t care for visitors,” I say sarcasticaly to the others as I disable the traps and unlock the door.
Once I’m done the doors creak open to reveal a small room filled with crates and creepy wax mannequins. On the wall is a small plaque in a language reminiscent of Ancient Thorass with a warning. “Visitors will be scalded.”
“How nice of them to put the warning after the trap,” Vedis mutters.
“Guys… I don’t like these mannequins,” Melchior warns. “Take a look at this one… it looks like Robelar of the Circle of Eight back on Greyhawk!”
“A big-wig, I take it?” I ask, as in our few trips to Greyhawk we spent more time shopping than anything.
“Yeah, you could say that.”
“There’s a slight magical aura to them, but nothing that really stands out,” Ef offers as his eyes glow with his spell.
“Check out this door behind the crates, though!” I reply as I move some of them out of the way to find a small hidden door. “Shall we check it out?”
“Ladies first,” Ef replies with a gesture of his hand at the door. I chuckle and run my fingers along the edges of the door inspecting it for the traps that all hidden doors seem to come with these days. Lo and behold, I am not disappointed, either; as I get to the handle I find a small indentation and a rather nasty needle that seems to be coated in something. “Come to mama,” I whisper as I pull out my tools and manage to disengage it from the door intact. “You never know when this might come in handy!” I then wrap the needle trap carefully and place it in my pack for safe keeping.
Once the traps and locks are taken care of we open the door to reveal a 5ft wide empty hallway. Yeah right…empty. I carefully make my way down the hallway a few feet at a time with Ef Utan following behind as I inspect the floor carefully. We make it a good ways down the hallway when suddenly I hear a click and freeze as the door we came in slams shut. Ef turns around and is about to go back to the door when I notice the holes opening in the ceiling and launch myself into his back just in time to push the both of us out of the way of the jets of hot wax shooting down where we once stood.
“Son of a… is it just me or am I detecting a theme?” Ef Utan groans as he sits up and rubs his head.
Ow…ow…ow… definitely not doing that again. “I don’t know… but I am about ready to throw away my candles out of spite,” I groan as I help him up and we go back to the door separating us from the rest of the group. Thankfully it’s not locked from our side, and we are able to open it again to get the group back together.
“Are you guys ok?” Lenata asks in concern. “What happened?”
“No worse for wear, thanks to Kenaris quick actions,” Ef Utan replied. “They seem to have an affection for hot wax, so I suggest we keep on our toes.”
I smile at the compliment but keep my mouth shut. Knowing Ef if I say anything that will probably be the last one I hear for awhile. “I did notice something interesting before the wax treatment, though. There’s another secret door at the end of that hallway, and if they are going to go to this much trouble to hide it, I definitely want to see what all the hubbub is about.”
“Let me just make sure this door remains open this time,” Ef mutters as he jams one of his daggers into the hinges.
Once we get through the next door we come to another door and a hallway. I for one am all about leaving no door unopened, so I unlock the door to the left to find a chilling sight. The small room is filled with large jars reminiscent of the canonic jars of the rituals of home where the priests would contain the internal organs of the dead. These jars smell of burnt wax, however… and instead of the faces of the gods on the lids, there seem to be the faces of humans. I even recognize two of them as powerful wizards thanks to my many stints in Seeker libraries. One of them is Hallister Blackstaff from the Realms, and the other is Bigby from Greyhawk. First Robelar and now these guys? A chill run downs my spine as I wonder why they might have jars such as these dedicated to powerful wizards of different worlds.
“I don’t like this, guys… I don’t like this at all. I don’t think these guys are part of the story… so would they try to recreate these men out of wax… other than…” I gulp as a thought hits me. “Other than to replace the real ones with these fake replicas?”
Vedis gasps. “What if the 10th Pit made a deal with Cessarian? If they get their Dream-jammer, they could travel to every sphere and replace their leaders with these wax replicas!”
“Well that does it then… these things have to go,” Ef Utan answers as he strides forward.
“Hold up!” I caution as the glint of something strange catches my eye in the dust. “If these things are what we think they are, they aren’t going to have just left them here for just anybody. Let me check it out first.”
I scan the room carefully now that I am not distracted by the jars and notice the now tell-tale holes in the ceiling… and the walls… and the floor. “Oh-boy… yeah… this is probably going to take me a bit.”
“Be careful,” Ef Utan warns. “The rest of you, why don’t you check out the hall? Just don’t go through any other doors until we’re done here. I’ll stay and back up Kenari in case something happens.”
“Why Ef, I didn’t know you cared,” I laugh as I find a safe place to kneel and pull out my tools to sift through the dust.
“Don’t get your panties in a twist, Kenari, we need you in order to get through this place alive,” Ef scoffs.
Hmmn… what’s this? I use one of my brushes to clear off whatever caught my eye earlier to find a chunk of a broken mirror. It bears investigation, so I use the edge of my sash to pick it up and stash it in one of its pockets.
“Hey guys, we found a Spelljammer tapestry on the wall!” Vedis calls out around the corner.
“I wonder if it’s by the same person who made that tapestry in the bar?” I ask aloud as I tear some rags and stopper some of the holes in the floor.
“Even if it isn’t, what the heck is it doing here?” Ef replies. “Could that person with the canister we saw in the vision have brought it?”
“Look, I’ll be okay, and it’s still going to take me a bit. Why don’t you go see what they’ve gotten themselves into? I swear on whatever number of lives I have left that nothing will happen.” Ef snorts and walks around the hallway as I continue to snip wires, plug holes with rags and mark safe spots to step with chalk for the next hour.
Eventually I am able to disable the traps to my satisfaction and dust myself off as I hear Ef cursing over the squabbles of the others. I chuckle and walk around the corner to join them as they’re pointing and arguing over a tapestry on the wall.
“I’m not going to touch it… you touch it! It’s radiating psionics like you wouldn’t believe!”
“I could shoot it down,” Melchior offers.
“Oh good god,” Ef mutters as he unsheathes his sword and uses the flat of the blade to pull the tapestry aside. Behind it is a curious small door about half-way up the wall, reminiscent of wall safes I’ve encountered in the past.
“I’m all for seeing what’s behind door number two, but in the meantime I think that last room is now safe.”
The others nod and we return to the other room. “Okay, just stay within the chalk lines and you should be safe,” I warn as I point to my work on the floor. Melchior whistles in appreciation as he takes in the remnants of disabled traps strewn across the floor. “Yeah… these things are definitely important,” I reply. “There’s some strange writing around the lids of the jars… so I’ll bet my last whisker that they’re magically trapped. I can try to disable them, but I wanted you all to be aware of the danger first.” I gesture with my hands and shoo them out of the room. “Go on now… I wouldn’t want you all to get singed.”
Lenata looks at me in concern over her shoulder. “Do be careful, Kenari.”
“Hey, I always try to be,” I joke and turn to the Bigby jar to see what I can do.
You know, all things considered, I’ve been lucky in my life as an adventuring rogue so far. I’ve been taking everything as it comes the best I can, rolling with the punches and letting the chaos pass around me. These jars, though… they truly unnerve me…
…which is probably why I missed that last rune.