I had never feared the color red before, red had always been a pleasant color to me. Red made me think of warmth, it made me think of passion and of wine. If I had taken the time just a week ago, or had even any reason, to think on the matter, I would have come to the conclusion that it would be near impossible for me to come to fear a color that I tied so closely to my favorite drink. Olidammara forgive me though, it was not wine that had been filling my dreams with red, but blood instead.
I had truly needed the time to rest, put my mind at ease and breathe, take a moment to remember the good things the color red could stand for. I also needed the time for my fear to sink below the surface and my curiosity to bubble to the top again. Perhaps for this reason it was a blessing that the gnome had gotten sick, it gave me the time I needed. Truthfully I wished no ill will for Billeybob, however I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps I should tip a glass back for Olidammara for the karma that had been served. Now I could feel a little more relaxed on seeking possible revenge for the damage he had inflicted on me.
For the time being it was rather pleasant that I was able to leave Billeybob and his mouth behind while I ventured out with Caelus. I myself couldn’t help but be curious over the discrepancies that were appearing in the stories of where the magistrate was. Of course the weather made a sudden turn for the worse and left me feeling rather disgruntled. I still let me curiosity lead me as I bundled up in my cloak and scarves and followed the cleric out into the snow and cold.
Despite the weather some shops seemed to still be attempting to go about their usual business. Of course my previous observations of this town have only led me to the assumption that closing shop for simply one day could possibly prove to be detrimental to these people. This time, particularly after my rather batched pickpocketing attempt, I didn’t waste my time trying to find a target. Doing so, and actually managing to succeed, would only likely provide a low payout and currently the complex was paying me better then what I could make as a sneak. It was also hard to ignore that many individuals that would have been out and about were still stuffed inside due to the weather.
I did find it rather amusing that Caelus seemed interested in finding a trinket for our little gnome while we wandered the market space. It was further amusing watching him haggle with the merchant. The trinket he had been interested in had been rather intriguing, particularly due to the mystery of it. I had never seen anything quite like it and what even more interesting was the claim that was made as to where it came from, the very ash fissures that were causing such a panic. I wasn’t about to spend what gold I had made on another though and wasn’t upset when we walked away.
Of course I should have known that the weather was some sort of bad omen as our luck had abruptly changed upon our decision to visit the magistrate’s residence. Then again the entire town had thus far come across as a bad omen when all of the recent events had been taken into consideration. It frequently had me questioning why it was that I hadn’t yet picked up my things and abandoned this town. Perhaps it was my curiosity? How boring my original routine in life had become? My fear of what might become of me on the roads out of town with the recent disappearances? Or perhaps it was even just my need for a challenge?
Whatever it was that kept me tethered to this town led me to stand before the magistrate’s house and take the time to look over the curtain drawn windows. I looked at each of the windows that we passed by, attempting to see if perhaps there was a single one with the curtains open enough to peer inside. There seemed to be nothing though. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was, as far as I knew, a frequent practice for those leaving their homes. As a gypsy I never had to worry about leaving curtains open, it hardly mattered and my home traveled with me, however I was on a job once when I was informed of why keeping the curtains drawn was important. In fact it was a lesson screeched at me by a target while I was in disguise as a maid under her employment. She spent a good portion of time in a long winded lecture of how my blunder of leaving her curtains open would allow the sun to dull her precious furniture. After taking her jewels that night I made sure to take the time to leave as many curtains open as possible. I wasn’t all that bitter at all.
These closed curtains left me with a strange feeling in my stomach that only proved to be right as we ventured to the back of the estate. Caelus went to observe more of the grounds while I went towards the back door. I tried to formulate a plan on how to pick the lock without Caelus figuring it out only to come to the discovery that it wasn’t needed. The door was already ajar as I approached it and going by the smell there was nothing good on the other side. The smell of death permeated the air and my mind raced to find a possible reason for that yet none of them had the best outcome, it became evident that it was a possibility that the magistrate never left town. My distrust for the town guard grew at the thought.
I called Caelus over, not desiring to venture into the dark of the house alone for fear of what may be lurking in the shadows. It did seem slightly strange that while the scent of something rotting had been apparent to me he picked up on no discernable scents as he approached; I brought it up to the thought that his nose was perhaps slightly stuffed. We made the decision to head inside and slowly pushed open the door to step into the dimly lit room. My stomach continued to churn as my anxiety peeked and I looked about the room we had entered. It appeared to be a kitchen of sorts however the drawn curtains made it difficult to look about. I walked over to the small window in the room and pulled the curtain open to allow in more light, if there was to be a fight I would prefer to be able to see what I was sticking my rapier into.
As the light filtered into the room I was able to see what appeared to be fairly strange set up. Around the room it seemed to be that items were strategically set up. However the only reason it was even vaguely noticeable was due to the fact that it appeared as though someone had pulled random items from throughout the home and specifically set each item in a set location. After all, it isn’t very day that someone would set their shoes and hats in such a strange manor in their kitchen.
It was while I was observing the strange placement of the items that I was able to head the distinct sound of shuffling coming towards us. I was just able to notify Caelus of my discovery when Hell itself appeared in one of the doorways. I wanted to balk at the fact that before me was another being brought back from the dead, this one, much fresher then the last. I quickly came to realize that this was the reason that the smell of death permeated the air and with the creature walking towards us I knew I needed to try to act quickly as to avoid a repeat of what had happened in our last battle.
My mentor had been sure to teach me how to steal, however she had also taken the time to train me how to fight. Back then she had always told me that a little sword play would help get me out of a dire situation, and lately, well I had found myself in quite a few of those. I would have to remember to thank her for the training if I ever met her again, right after I took the time to backhand her. For the moment I used what training I had to roll forward and avoid a hit from the undead in order to flank it after pulling out my rapier. I took my weapon and shoved it into the creature just as I had been taught.
Very little seemed to happen upon my attack. I pulled my rapier from the undead body only to find a tiny puncture wound with a small dribble of the creature’s remaining blood. It hardly seemed to affect it at all. I scowled in frustration and watched as Caelus seemed to have much better luck. He slashed at the creature quickly ending its second life with his long sword. I peered down at my rapier after the fight was over, confused as to how I was unable to assist more in the fight. I sheathed my rapier and pulled out the mace that the complex had given to me hoping to be able to inflict more damage with it if need be.
After the creature lay at our feet dead for a final time, we made the decision to look in the other rooms to see if there were any more undead about or any evidence of what might have brought the one back to life. I peered into the next room where the stairs appeared to be located for going up to the second floor. At first glance nothing seemed out of place, it wasn’t until my companion gave the all clear for the other room that I noticed another creature fumbling at the base of the stairs.
This one appeared to be a much more prepared dead man if the armor and the weapon at his side were any indicators. It was likely a blessing of sorts that as a dead man the creature was not intelligent enough to use its weapon. In fact, it barely seemed intelligent enough to use its arms in battle as we engaged it in combat. When it went on the offensive it promptly lost one of its arms on Caelus’s shield. I couldn’t say much for what use I was in the fight, hitting the undead with the mace proved to give similar results as my rapier did. Caelus was able to make quick work of the creature yet again, turning it more so into a mere smear than anything else in a rather gruesome attack.
I will say as a traveler, I was used to a bit of grime. There were times when I would have to go days before getting a proper bath, a bit of dirt and sweat were nothing, what covered me after Caelus struck the final blow was not “nothing” though. Instead of “nothing” it was the rotting remains of the now yet again dead man. The feeling of the slime slipping down my face brought bile to my throat. Caelus seemed to be affected as well as both of us rushed out of the residence. We wiped down at an outdoor water trough. It helped my stomach some but I couldn’t help but continue dreaming about the bath I would take upon returning to the complex.
Once we managed to get to a point vaguely resembling a human yet again we reentered the magistrate’s house. Caelus made the decision to ascend the stairs first, tucking behind his shield to the best of his ability for protection. We slowly made our way up the stairs like that, me walking behind him as he peered over his shield as to what was in front of us. When we reached the top the stairs we were greeted with an interesting site, the entire floor had been trashed. Furniture had been moved and broken and from what I could tell there were markings made in blood on the ground.
I watched Caelus as he moved forward and used the sword he had taken from the mush that was a deceased guard to lightly scratch at the markings, when nothing happened he told me to back up. I was in no place to deny his request and moved farther down the stairs so that I was no longer able to see what was occurring on the second floor. I stood on the stairs for a moment, holding my breath and waiting for something to happen. At first it seemed as if we were perhaps finally in the clear until I heard more movement downstairs.
Reaching the base of the stairs yet again we came to find another undead standing in one of the entry ways. We were somewhat caught off guard as it had originally seemed as if there was nothing left down here. For a moment it seemed as if there was simply going to be a standoff between us and the undead as it merely peered at us in its unseeing way as it slowly stalked forward. It seemed to be that it was once of the female workers here at the residence. The creature didn’t even attack as it stood so close to us. We weren’t about to let it get in the first attack though, regardless of how it was acting at the moment. I attempted to use my rapier again with similar poor results, Caelus yet again had better luck as he cut it down with his long sword.
When she lay dead for the second time in her existence at our feet we began to discuss what our next course of action should be. With all that we had witnessed that day my distrust in the town guard grew, beyond what my usual distrust in them would have been. I was not comfortable bringing what occurred to their attention and devised a plan to allow me to speak with Lady Grace first. I offered to go to the guards myself as Caelus went to speak with the members of the church. My true intentions were to bring the information to the guards, preferably with another individual present, and after I have been assured by another that they could be trusted.
When Caelus left I took some time to search the house, grabbing a few coins here and there from the bed room and picking up the long sword that Caelus chose to leave behind. I was rather astonished by the fact that he left it, the sword seemed to have been made better than his own but his own morals caused him to leave it behind. His loss was my gain and I wrapped it up in one of my scarves and hid it under my cloak. With my searching complete I waited outside for Caelus’s return, only to lie to him about informing the guards.
I spent my time continuing to work out my plan as Caelus and the dwarf cleaned up the mess that had been left behind and they took notes on the markings from upstairs. I didn’t have much more to say until I found myself alone with Lady Grace. I may not have much faith in the church, the need for extravagance overwhelming me, but her opinion would help clear my mind. At least that is what I had thought. Lady Grace seemed more concerned about the guards’ incompetence than the fact they may be untrustworthy. It was of little help as I went to bathe for the day and inform our gnome companion of what had occurred.