Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Under the Manor

Why the hell did you come down here anyway? The tunnels under Crocáno have long served as an effective drainage system and before that a method of escape during attacks and sieges. Dark, torchless, the tunnels are pitch black except for a faint light ahead.

You’ve heard some government buildings and old manors have secret entrances to the underground but you’ve never seen one yourself. The closer you get you realize this must be one. A barred entrance stands before you and beyond is a roughly hewn tunnel. You can’t see torches but there’s a flicker of light playing across the tunnel walls. Guess this is where the adventure stops. You’ve spent a good five minutes in the tunnels and that’s probably a good five minutes longer than your friends are willing to spend on a dare. Before you leave, you tap the bricks next to the arched entrance. You don’t know why you do it but you do and now the loose brick you tapped has given way, revealing a strange round device. It’s hard to see in the dark, but when you turn it, the bars drop.

That’s interesting… well, let’s just see where that light’s coming from shall we.

The next room opens up. The ceiling is high, about 10 ft. up. There’s an eave that runs around the room with flames, just visible over the edge. It’s too high to see what’s feeding the flames but it smells terrible. There are also four pillars at the center of the room. All of them have chains and manacles anchored to them, but each is different. One has four chains bolted to the ground and two sets anchored high up on the pillar. The three others have chains bolted to them, though one chain is significantly shorter than the others. Looking around, you can see deep scratches on the pillars and the floor. Some looked like scratch marks from claws, others from a spike or horns.

This room is really strange, but its nothing compared to the next room. This chamber has no pillars, just a round opening in the floor. When you stand at its edge you look down. Immediately you’re hit with a barrage of confused emotions. You don’t know why you suddenly feel angry but you do. A moment later you feel somber and then confused. Just as you begin to adjust to the strange roulette of emotions you notice the pulsating mass below. Filling the pit, a hideous creature the color of rock and mud sloshes across the floor like a viscous fluid. Then it begins changing. Its rocky flesh now appears more like a blob of skinless flesh and parts of its body open and close in a confusing array of orifices. It takes a few moments but it eventually hits you, its skin tone now exactly matches your own.

Then comes the sound of a heavy door unlocking and the sound of a steel joints screeching. Someone’s coming from the adjacent room and you hear voices. Too late to escape back where you came from, so you go to the only place you can, the next room. This room has many pillars and you have to descend a staircase into it. If they don’t come into this room you should be able to hide from view.

The voices come closer. You hear two women speaking. Their voices echo around the room. One of the women says, “Ignore it!” She sounds agitated and impatient. Then it goes quiet except for the sounds of scraping feet and something being drawn along the ground. You dare to come closer.

Slouched and ascending the stair ever so slowly, you hide behind a stone carving, peering from between its joints. You can just barely see into the room. There are two women and three cloaked figures. Before she turns her back to you, you’re certain you recognize one of the women as Orsa, a councilwoman.

“Hand me the dagger,” she says. Holding out a hand, one of the cloaked men bring her a long dagger. At nearly two feet long it’s almost a sword. She stands at the threshold of the pit reciting words you cannot understand and pours a dark liquid into the pit. You gasp when she throws the dagger into the pit but its masked with a sudden crackling like sparks from a fire and a high whine that fills the room with cacophony.

Then an image appears in front of her, a cloaked figure. The deep voice of man with a strange accent comes from the image, “So you found one? You are resourceful.”

“Do not doubt me, Lothar,” replies Orsa.

“Of course not, of course.” Leaning forward through the image suspended over the pit, the figure holds out a piece of parchment. “This will send you to the east wing. Do not use it until past midnight.”

“Of course. When we find what we’re looking for we will share it,” replies Orsa.

“We are most grateful,” replies the deep voiced man as he makes a slight bow. A moment later the portal closes. Not long after, Orsa and her companions leave with the piece of parchment.

You don’t move for many moments afterwards, but eventually make your way back to the pit. When you peer down you see a mound of open flesh with many blotches of pooled blood. When you feel nothing, it becomes clear to you that the creature is dead.

“Fucking hell.”

1. There are four pillars in this room and three entrances, one entrance from the sewers, one from Orsa’s Manor, and one from the adjacent room. Each of the four pillars has shackles. One has deep grooves at the top of the pillar. Another has many claw marks. One of the other pillars has an extra set of shackles. Along the top of the ceiling is a groove with some oil flowing through it that stinks when burned. It seems this room is always lit.

2. This room has pit at the center with a creature the likes of which you’ve never seen. It’s totally alien and saturated with psychic energy. After the ritual the creature in the pit is dead. If you stare long enough you’ll notice it’s sinking underwater. There is also an intricate pattern on the floor, drawn in chalk, and completely surrounding the pit. There are runes about it but its language is totally alien. It has the likeness of a summoning circle from a children’s book about witches and wizards.

3. Descending the stairs from area two reveals another peculiar room. There are many pillars. Each is covered in ornate carvings. Beginning with the most northerly pillar and moving southwards reveals a story of the da Crocána, from explorers and migrants to builders and philosophers, it also depicts the cities twice destruction by the nobles and its rebirth as the city of today. Careful viewers may find buildings they are otherwise familiar with are subtly different. The sharpest amongst you may have the realization that the oldest buildings have an extra floor (their first floor is now underground).

4. The adjacent room is lined with empty sconces. It’s dark and it reeks. If you have good hearing and you listen closely you can hear feint breathing. Bringing light to this room reveals a narrow hall and shelves (one that masks a secret exit to an unused cellar in the adjacent building. On the shelves are many oddities, including books with alien writing, also some with Ancient writing and four vials. The vials are filled with a dark red, almost black liquid). Opposite this narrow hall are two cells. Within one is a heap of unmoving flesh. At first light it appears to be a dead bull. On closer inspection it has human features as well. A monstrous creature, the beast is chained to the ground. In the other cell is another strange creature- a bird-man. The creature’s arms are raised and shackled to the wall while its body is seated on the ground. If it weren’t for the subtle movement of its chest slowly rising and falling you would think it’s dead too. If you speak with it, you will hear of the horrors this bird-folk creature and its cellmates, each of the half-men, a catfolk, minotaur, and centaur were chained and bled. Apparently the catfolk died first, unable to cope with being chained and locked away. Soon after the centaur managed to kill himself. The minotaur has been dead a week now but no one has come to clear him away like the others. The birdfolk is emaciated, delirious, and likely beyond help, but you can glean that each creature was stolen from their homes and brought here. He does not know why but he has seen some of the strange alien creatures his captors bring in and hears strange rituals being performed.

Magda Zwierzchowska

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