Chapter 4, Part IV: Wonder House

In the dimly lit catacombs of the Temple of Lumi, the adventurers had gathered once more. Bart and Firebrook rejoined their companions, who were deep in conversation about the strange occurrences that had taken place in this sacred space.

Firebrook explained that he had been tailing Hellblade, an agent of the Sianfete family, for the majority of the day, and that he believed that the man had snuck into the temple.

Nohki shared his own discovery. He had previously turned into a cat and ventured into a small, eerie passage but quickly retreated, a sense of foreboding overwhelming him. The group couldn't help but wonder what secrets lay hidden in the dark corners of this temple.

Bart, her memory stirred by the temple's presence, recalled that this place had been part of Boymin for generations. However, it had never been her family's place of worship, as Watson Manor had its own chapel.

Firebrook, as if plucking an answer out of thin air, produced a potion of shapeshifting. With it, he transformed into the physical manifestation of his father, Hellspear. He then used the Warden's Shield and mended Xerxes' aching knee, a result of their recent escapades on a mushroom hunt. The shield created a beam of radiant energy which enveloped the injured leg, and Xerxes felt renewed.

Moving deeper into the temple, they found themselves in a hallway that held a single skeleton in an alcove and a cryptic symbol on the wall. Drez used the lens of his spyglass to reflect the light at the symbol when Nohki's attempt to use an emerald was unsuccessful. Once the light hit the symbol, the skeletal figure glowed and became a radiant statue of the Goddess Lumi, a scroll of Daylight at her feet.

After taking the scroll, they continued along the corridor and came to a chamber adorned with skeletons. Each one stood in a unique pose, and a riddle was etched above their heads. Vance, inspired by the mystery, began to dance.

Vance's dance, an attempt to decipher the riddle, proved to be an eerie experience. As the voices in his ears grew discordant, it became apparent that the dance alone was not the solution. Undeterred, he tried again, and this time, changing his position and method, the lid of the tomb slid open, revealing a young boy named Felipe.

Felipe, precocious and chatty, explained how he had navigated the labyrinthine catacombs using holes in the walls.

But Xerxes, alone in the main chamber, experienced a peculiar phenomenon. A crawling sensation overcame him, followed by an intense headache and a wave of fear. He bolted from the temple, leaving his companions stranded.

Felipe led Nohki through the labyrinth of tunnels to the other side of the imposing chasm. Using a cooking tool to manipulate the light, Nohki created a bridge to span the gap for the rest of the party.

Meanwhile, Xerxes snapped out of his fearful episode and returned, feigning nonchalance. However, the others couldn't help but notice the unease behind his facade.

Felipe, bored by Vance's magic show, relieved Vance of 20 gold coins unnoticed. Firebrook, Xerxes, and Nohki, now reunited with the prisoners held by the clerics, burned the scroll of daylight, setting the captives free.

Outside the catacombs, the newly released prisoners struggled to break free from Lumi's clerics' clutches. They were able to push past Yobin, and run off into the village. Drez had stopped one of the escapees as Xerxes rushed off and convinced Deputy Officer Junior Officer to come investigate the situation at the temple. Once the deputy arrived, the prisoner that was restrained by Drez began to behave more erratically and violently. As he asked, "Did you say Bart?" the intense jerking motions of his neck, nearly inhuman in both strength and speed, caused a sudden crack as broke his own neck and died in Drez's arms.

The deputy was horrified, and said that he would need to go to the manor at once to investigate the issue here. The party convinced him to wait a day, and he agreed to allow the group to accompany him in the morning to investigate the manor.

With their mission accomplished, they returned to the Adventurers' Guild International to turn in their quest and were greeted by a personalized quest from Jodi, which she claimed cheerily was unusual.

Platinum Talons:
You've been making a name for yourself here in Boymin despite its grave situation. I have reason to believe you may be the help we've so desperately been seeking. I need you to secure a very precious gem-powered item that will undoubtedly be the light in your darkness. There is a house in the residential district, 154 Kittyway. Secure this item, and I will find you once your task has been completed. Hurry now, time is most certainly not on our side.

The adventurers then ventured to 154 Kittyway. Nohki found the door wreathed in violet holly, which only Tabaxis could touch safely. It was a curious welcome mat, to say the least.

As they entered, they quickly discovered the place was anything but welcoming. Fire suddenly engulfed the room's edges, and a fiery figure shuffled toward them. Despite his fear of fire, Nohki confronted the flames with his wooden arm and took psychic damage as he conquered his fear.

Drez investigated but found no doors or windows, not even the one they came through, which had mysteriously vanished. The book on the table, titled "Delusions," was a puzzle they couldn't read -- it was all jumbled shapes. Firebrook detected illusion magic throughout the room. Vance, struggling to read a book titled "Lydia" that he pulled off the shelf beside two other tomes (titled "Universities" and "Salutations"), believed this place was a test rather than a threat.

Nohki inspected the coffee table books: "Whispering," "Chronicles," "Icebreaker." A bump under the rug piqued his interest. Bart checked the blank scroll on the chair while Xerxes examined a painting, hinting at a need for green leaf gems.

Drez discovered a book called "Revelation," but couldn't decipher its strange writing. Vance attempted to organize the books, thinking them a trick. Nohki, after investigating the bump under the rug, found a trapdoor in the floor and sent Vance's dancing lights down. Xerxes could find nothing of note on the clock he investigated.

While Nohki, Vance, and Firebrook went into the trap door, Vance and Drez investigated more of the room. Drez discovered another book, titled "Harmonies," on the mantle of the fireplace. While there, he noticed piano key-like stones on the fireplace. Vance joined him in attempting to unravel the mysteries of the fireplace.

Venturing below through the trapdoor, Nohki, Xerxes, and Firebrook found themselves in a luxurious ballroom filled with the wealthy.

You descend the ladder into a bright and lavish ballroom, the floor shiny, polished marble beneath your feet. People of wealth and sophistication mill about the room, their needlessly expensive clothing illuminated by the soft glow of the room's crystal chandeliers. You see an ebony grand piano in the center of the room, a page of sheet music sitting in the rack above the keys. A sign on a golden post sits beside it which reads, "Symphonies of Rorak to begin at 12:02 sharp.

They watched the scene play out without intervening, and witnessed as the room was torn asunder by a violent darkness.

You hear the toll of twelve chimes, and a dwarven man steps from out of the crowd. He has a long brown beard and is wearing a suit with tails that nearly sweep the floor. With the assistance of a jogging start, he makes it up onto the piano bench and settles in. He checks the clock, and pulls out a small good luck charm from his inner jacket pocket, kisses it and sets it on the piano. It looks like a chess piece. Rorak cracks his knuckles and then plays a single note that reverberates throughout the echoic hall.

The song dies in the air, just the one note making it out before a pillar of darkness crashes down through the ceiling, a chandelier dislodged as forcefully as a champagne cork as the shadows begin to pour in around it. The fixture slams into the piano, crushing both the beautiful instrument and the dwarf in a cacophony of dissonant chords and shattering glass. The sheet music is swept up into the air and begins to float on the whipping currents of the darkness as it continues to flood in through the ceiling in menacing, serpentine ribbons, unrestrained, and lashing out in all directions. Guests panic, their screams filling the once-elegant chamber as they scramble to escape the encroaching darkness, now consuming everything in its path. The entire room is swallowed and you find yourselves suddenly and forcefully thrown backwards.

As they exited into the main room, Bart experienced her deepest fear: her family's brutal murder. The image faded, leaving her struggling to complete intelligence-based tasks.

Firebrook found a book under the grandfather clock, "Nocturne," and gave it to Vance. Attempts to place books in non-dusty spots failed, and playing the piano keys on the fireplace yielded no results.

The group reentered the ballroom, now together. Vance retrieved sheet music but found it impossible to play the piano there, as his fingers went right through. His butt, as well, went right though the bench when he attempted to sit down. A dwarf appeared again, placing a queen chess piece on the piano. Firebrook swiped the piece, and when the dwarf played the piano this time, there was no darkness, and, instead the ladder back up to the main room was revealed in a white light.

Xerxes set the clock to 12:02, as indicated on the sign in the ballroom, and Vance played the sheet music on the piano. Still, the chess piece didn't fit the keyhole, Xerxes.

Sand-like crumbling from the ceiling buried them, revealing Drez's fear, which left him with a dexterity disadvantage.

Opening both the clock and fireplace doors simultaneously left them with a choice regarding which to visit first. The group decide to enter the clock room together, finding two old men playing chess. They noticed a sparkling green gem on the black queen. Xerxes swapped it with the queen from a previous scene. Vance tried to sit in an illusory chair, failed again, but found a book titled "Obscurity."

Exiting the clock, Firebrook's fear manifested as an endless void that he was able to overcome by casting a small light into the darkness.

Xerxes placed the leaf gem into the painting. Inside the fireplace, they witnessed a tabaxi birthday party.

You step into what appears to be a raucous and lively birthday party for two young tabaxi children. You see a gaggle of children running around, laughing and shouting loudly as music plays. A banner on the far wall reads, "Happy XII and II Birthday, Fiddles and Fubster!" You see, who you imagine is the older of the birthday boys, opening a present. Inside the wrapping, he pulls out a thick book. He makes a face of displeasure and throws it away over his shoulder. The younger of the birthday boys is sitting at a table with an empty plate. He seems to be trying to get the adults at the table to pay attention to him, tugging on sleeves and holding up his plate to them.

Drez tried to grab cake, but his hand, sadly, sailed right through. Vance took the book, "Indigo," and the scene collapsed.

Returning to the main room, Vance faced his fear of eternal isolation and beat it handily.

Nohki investigated the plant, discovering a steak fruit. It was the key to beating the fireplace illusion; placing the fruit on the young Tabaxi's plate resulted in a happy kitten who left a green leaf gem for the party to grab.

In the main room, placing the leaf gem in the painting revealed a key, which allowed them to open the room's wooden door.

They stepped into a chilling execution scene, where a woman was set to be beheaded.

Vance snuck onto the platform and grabbed a book titled "Lullabies" from the execution, which allowed the near-executed to run off into an alley.

Once back in the main room, the party set to cracking the code for the bookshelves. They determined that the first letter in each word of the title of the books should be used, and only 8 were necessary based on the dust patterns on the bookshelf. Xerxes deciphered the code, realizing that the books should spell out the word 'ILLUSION,' which unlocked the bookshelf and allowed them inside the next room.

You place the final book onto the shelf, and you hear a clunk on the other side of the bookshelf. It swings open and reveals another room that looks like it belongs to the same house as the sitting room you are currently in. Inside is an office, a desk on the far wall with its chair's back to you. You can hear the click clack of a type writer stop when you enter and the scratch of the chair legs against the floor. An older halfling moves out from behind the chair, his arms crossed over his chest.

"Took you long enough, didn't it?"

Completed: September 2023