Dungeon World Tales

Manse of the Missing Magus
What's happened so far...

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Anonymous Villager Voice-over…

Things have gotten dangerous strange in the steading of Grimwood. The dead have grown restless. The weather is strange. Why, the other day, purple snow fell from the sky for half an hour — and it smelled like lavender. It’s not all fun and games though. We’re still cleaning up after a full minute when everything became weightless two nights ago. Livestock are starting to turn up dead… not just dead. Half-eaten. Or worse, turned to stone. Do you know what a stone pig is worth at market?

They say it’s all to do with the mansion at Rook’s Roost, through the western edge of Grimwood and past the cemetery: Willowleaf Manor. That place has been going crazy for days. Explosions. Awful noises. Fires that come and go and nothing is burnt up afterwards. Lights in the sky. You name it! The master of the house is the last of a family of sorcerers and alchemists—a strange bunch, to be sure, although he always seemed friendly enough.

Word is, he’s come to a bad end – gone mad, maybe. He ain’t been seen around here for days. And them that’s gone to find him have either vanished or come back screaming.

Well, someone better do something soon, or I don’t know what will become of Grimwood, and its people.

What went down…

Our heroes — Victorius Ravenfriend, the brooding & mysterious Sgt Finn, Regulus the “Law Made Flesh (and covered in Steel)”, and Halwyrrr, collector of arcane lore and eldritch enigmata — find themselves at the center of a town under siege by seemingly random forces of a sort that fascinate Halwyrrr and terrify everyone else.

As if on cue, a clutch of children playing near a fountain in the center of the platz are menaced by a small pack of vicious blink dogs, which our heroes dispatch with wit and grace.

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Gratitude! Adulation! Accolades! …and a job offer of sorts. More of a fool’s errand, really…

The town reeve/mayor, Davindra Artus, implores the group to go to Rook’s Roost and see what has become of Bromswell Willowleaf, master of the manor and reputed wielder of strange magicks.

After a little legwork, including an interview with Lorquim Singh, the town’s amateur archivist and friend of Bromswell, our heroes set off, armed only with a handful of rumours and a roughly sketched map. And weapons ‘n’ stuff.

The Road to Raven’s Roost

1. Our heroes valiantly save a family at a farmhouse near the edge of town, defeating a group of Imps who had attacked them.

2. A wolf jumps from the bushes further down the road, but tonight it is more prey than predator… It is quickly followed by more dangerous antagonists: a trio of cockatrices, which the party manages to slay without anyone getting pecked.

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  • A figure is chasing the party from the direction of the town… friend or foe? Lo! Tis “Grit”, and he came bearing thanks for saving his family, a potion of healing, and a gnarly-looking sword he found in the woods. He offers his services as a man-at-arms to Regulus.
  • Grimwood Cemetery – A group of… tourists?… mourners?… grave-diggers?… oh, zombies toils away to release a pair of alpha males from the “Murderer’s Yard.” The terrible ____ Brothers rise again (as Mohrgs), but not for long. Breathing mostly through their mouths, our heroes interrupt this solemn assembly just long enough to re-kill the whole festering lot of them.

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  • Lights in the sky. Purple rain. A faint whiff of … is that gingerbread? General disorder. Gravity goes out for a few seconds. Oh there, it’s back. [thud]
  • The party returns to town to eat some soup and buy ALL THE ARROWS
  • Back at the site of the adventure, they finally arrive at the threshold of Willowleaf Manor! They go around back and Sgt Finn susses out the back door…

The Kitchen

Finn observes a band of thugs roughing up a pasty-looking character, apparently pressing him for information. After Finn brings everyone else up to date, the party decides to break it up.

In the brouhaha that follows, the man being held against his will undergoes a fiery transformation (into a rat) before scurrying to freedom. Three bandits die violently.

Their leader, Sibel Qi, is briefly charmed by Halwyrrr before seeing the fate of her companions uproots his enchantment — and she steals quietly away, further into the manse…

The Dining Room

The party “liberates” a bejeweled, owl-themed teapot in the process. (It never seems to run out of tea!) Victorius is more or less sodden with tea at this point…

The Main Hall

  • Here, in the grandest room yet, Sgt Finn quickly discerns a trapped chandelier whose spikes have been coated in Oil of Tagit. The trap can be enabled and disabled from a panel behind an old grandfather clock, which also conceals a secret passage that goes down, beneath the house. Sibel Qi has already run afoul of the trap, and is suspended aloft, snoring lightly.
  • Victorius has an interview with the ghost of “Uncle Orso” who haunts his own portrait, upon which the light of the moon reveals the curse of were-bearism Orso bore in life… Orso can find no trace of his nephew Bromswell in the underworld…
  • Lights can be seen and explosions heard from up the stairs and down one of the halls; the party decides to leave Sibel to sleep and investigate…

The Master Bedroom

  • Bad poetry, excellent biological drawings, a dynamic map of the constellations where the ceiling should be, and an obsequious automaton valet… And the party catches a glimpse of the man/rat from their earlier encounter in the kitchen.

The Lab

  • This room has not been child-proofed. Arcing bolts of purplish energy dancing from apparatus to apparatus, cauldrons and apothecary’s vials bubbling over, the air is thick with strange vapours… Halwyrrr braves it all and comes out with a prize: a book of arcana. The rest of the party doesn’t entirely share his enthusiasm.
  • Upon leaving the lab, the party notices a rhythmic “swinging” shadow on the landing of the main hall, and suddenly, Sibel lands in the hall, having shaken off some of the effect of the Tagit oil. Ultimately, however, the party subdues and interrogates her, before mercifully showing her the front door. Sgt Finn, in fact, cuts off her vow of vengeance (or whatever) by slamming the door on her, mid-vow. While her motives for raiding Willowleaf Manor might not have been simple banditry alone, she clearly knew nothing of Bromswell’s fate.

The Secret Passage

  • The party steal down a spiral staircase into a set of subterranean vaults that are clearly much older than the old house itself; the air thrums with raw magical energy, like water from a natural spring.
  • There are two passages at the bottom of the staircase, one barred by an elaborate door with magical wards, and the other the party took…

The Menagerie

  • Even a wide passage can seem narrow when it runs between the cages of a red dragon whelp and a starving owlbear… The Ranger narrowly avoids having the latter take off her head before the Wizard hatches a plan. Calling on the concentrated magical powers of this strange place, he casts an extra-strength spell of Invisibility on the whole party. Then they quietly inch their way through the gauntlet, although Halwyrrr almost loses his new book — and an arm — in the process.

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Our heroes are now standing past the large caged chambers, hearing the owlbear raging against the already-damaged bars of its portcullis… Before them lies a large dark chamber, filled with smaller cages, barrels, beastly noises, and small shapes flitting among the shadows…

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Manse of the Missing Magus (Conclusion)

The Bestiary (cont.)
After running the gauntlet of Owlbear and Wyrmling, the party confronts a scene of wreckage like the zoological counterpart to Bromswell’s berzerk laboratory: Boxes, cages, bookshelves, barrels, all over-turned and askew, and that smell… Probably has something to do with the carcass of a razor-boar over by the smashed terrarium. Fur, blood, offal. Awful.

And if that weren’t bad enough… something moving in the darkness — or is it the darkness itself that stirs in the corners… along the ceiling… moving this way. Something alive? Just the opposite, really. Here the party dispatches three Nightwings, escaped from whatever sort of vessel could have held them, before further exploring the filthy ex-menagerie — only to find scattered notes & diagrams ruminating on the nature of live, longevity, death, and the alternatives…

Oh yeah, the barrels: Several overturned and broken open, lined with an inner coating of some kind of waxy resin, below a sign reading simply “Slimes and Oozes.”

The Corridor
At the back of the room, the Paladin, Thief, Ranger, and Wizard discover a door to a stone passageway, apparently of older and grander designs. Sgt Finn applies his skills of observation to the entrance and discovers a trail where the (considerably dusty) floor is clear and clean, but it ends at a nearby wall.

All the characters can feel… something emanating from down the corridor, brushing at their skin and hair like an irregular breeze or currents in an invisible stream. Victorius, ever alert, shoots an experimental arrow down the corridor: It lands true, embedded in the wall where the hall turns to the south, but she marvels somewhat at its course. Both Ranger and Thief can easily discern that the arrow took a bit longer than it should have to strike the wall…

Cautiously, the party make their way to a bend in the corridor and discover, to the south-west, a large, metallic door bearing a design of concentric circles, standing slightly ajar in an arch-shaped doorway. After some ado about his 10-foot pole, Sgt. Finn is the first to venture through…

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The Leyloom / Well of Timeless Repose
This is a big, round room. That much is clear immediately.

Sgt. Finn feels an almost eerie calm as he enters, free at last from the erratic waves of arcane effluvium apparently emanating from this place — the eye of a hurricane of weirdness. To his mates, however, his appearance tells another story, his movements dream-like and uncannily retarded. When he looks back at them, they are spastic, frenetic, their facial expressions a chaos of blurred motion.

But the room itself… The floor has three low circular tiers, making the room look like a bull’s-eye laid flat, and the central dais is dominated by the black shape of a large ornate sarchophagus, covered in runes and unsettling imagery.

The walls that circle the room rise up to a height of 15 feet or so, before the room opens up into a large domed enclosure whose circumference seems even larger than the circle formed by the room’s vertical walls. At the tops of the wall at regular intervals, settled into strange-looking sconces, Finn notes the shapes of 10 or 11 large metallic arachnoid constructs — and another one, to the west, the size of a wagon, with a single red glowing eye. Although it’s hard to say for sure, the Thief intuits that the eye is fixed upon a strange device on the east wall: a desk overflowing with notes, almanacs and odd calendars sitting before a vertical board of metallic pegs. The pegs themselves are connected by a complicated and arbitrary-looking criss-cross of silvery wires, capped at each end to be affixed to any of the pegs…

Treading carefully, Finn arrives at a door on the far side of the room and spikes it open with pitons… As he does so, he glances upward and notes that the ceiling is practically obscured by a latticework of dozens and dozens of thick cables, in some cases spanning the full width of the room, anchored at both ends in large spout-like apertures. Most curiously, threads of blue-gray power course visibly along the fibers of every cable.

As an alternative to dying of old age in the corridor, the rest of the party enters the room — Tor and Halwyrr taking up stations near the door as Regulus and Grit approach the sarcophagus. The latter two note the presence of some notes, and a spilled ink bottle to the side of the monument where the hinged lid may open… Then they decide to open it.

As soon as the seal is broken, the heavy lid flies open with force, catching the Paladin off guard and sending him reeling. On his back and trying to clear the stars from his visual field, Regulus returns to his senses just in time to see the oozing mass of a giant roiling mass of ooze flow and bubble gracefully out of the great stone box and over his legs. In the brouhaha that follows, these things happen:

  • Various bits and pieces of the Paladin are partly digested by a giant grey ooze, including the edge of his sword and most of his leg-hair.
  • Tor throws the be-oozed Paladin a life-line, in the form of a rope, which also gets partly digested.
  • The farm-boy-cum-warrior “Grit” takes a blow for Regulus, and receives an epic clobbering from one of the ooze’s club-like pseudo-pods.
  • A gnome-like wizened little man with bent spectacles and a scorched beard emerges from the sarcophagus, with some assistance from the Ranger… Behold, Bromswell Willowleaf!
  • Sgt Finn approaches the strange peg-board, and behind him, hears the kind of sound that a metal spider the size of a wagon would make if it jumped 15 feet onto a stone floor.
  • The old man, who seems wholly preoccupied with the current date, takes a moment out from interviewing Tor to bark an exotic monosyllable at the Arachnoid — at which point it halts its nightmarish advance on Finn, returns to its wall sconce and emits several satisfied jets of steam from its thorax and jointed leg segments.
  • Halwyrrr, who has been sporting an eldritch erection ever since coming down the corridor because of the surplus of arcane juju in the atmosphere, peppers the ooze with an array of souped-up magic missiles, which ultimately undo the blob’s cohesive integrity. Under this high-powered onslaught, the ooze bursts at last into a soup of brackish watery sputum and swampy-looking brown foam.
  • Regulus investigates to see just how dead Grit really is. Fortunately, he’s only “mostly dead.”

As the battle ends and the ooze begins its new career as just a stain, Willowleaf (having learned the date and consulting his various almanacs and charts) begins feverishly working the pegboard — what he calls the Leyloom — changing the configuration of wires in a dozen or more circuits. As he does so, the 11 smaller mechanical arachnids pop from their resting places and, with specially adapted pincer-like “mouths,” begin disconnecting and reconnecting the larger cables the span the ceiling. The air crackles with loose energy, but as they finish, a sense of equilibrium returns that our heroes haven’t felt since before they came to Grimwood.

Outro
Bromswell has his man-servant (actually a Quasit as Halwyrrr comes to learn) tend to Grit and then fly to the mayor to set up a meeting to discuss repairs, re-capturing some of the more dangerous creatures that escaped from the bestiary, and so on.

He confirms the party’s suspicions about the sarchophagus: When it is closed its contents become timeless. He was working on transcribing some of the runes (for other research) when the ooze dropped on him from the ceiling/cables above. The fact that the sarchophagus door fell shut only a second later no doubt saved his life, although Grimwood would pay the price…

The Leyloom channels the massive natural magical power of Rook’s Roost in positive directions via hidden ley lines that stretch out from Willowleaf Manor: Keeping fields fertile, weather temperate, dead resting in peace — all the good stuff. But it’s all sensitive to the cycles of sun and moon, and the turn of the seasons — and must be adjusted regularly from the loom.

At the end of the day, he gratefully offers the party some coin and grants Tor a strange boon in the form of a small, stoppered bottle of light blue glass, decorated with pewter metalwork representing billowy clouds… the Flask of Breath.

On the down side, Bromswell does insist on taking back his gramma’s teapot.

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