The specter disappears, and the group agrees that the skeleton must be Terina’s remains. Conferring further, they decide to investigate the house above them before heading to the theater.
Deciding that caution is a much better plan this time around, the group chooses to listen at the door this time before trying to break it down. The group hears nothing, so they kick the door in and let whatever might be inside come to them instead.
This time, nothing rushes out to meet them. Entering the main room, they feel a presence tugging at their minds, but ignore it to investigate the tattered remains of the lower floor. Little in the main room interests them, as well as the kitchen; everything is rusted or broken, tattered and blood-spattered.
Then they hear the music.
This was where I hit play on the music file. I’ve always liked using mood music as appropriate, and the reaction from the group was exactly what I had hoped it would be. They were all sufficiently creeped out; I’ve included the music file so that you can join in the creepitude. Just open it in a new tab, and read through the next few paragraphs (insert sinister grin here).
The music then falls silent.
Hurrying upstairs, the group finds a large music box sitting undisturbed in the middle of the upper room. Dorn moves to the box and opens it, and the music begins again, invading their minds, filling them with haunting images, filling them with pain, with rage, with sorrow. Within the music, something tugs at their minds, seeking to control them, to manipulate them. The group shrugs off the effects, and Dorn closes the box.
Kevara enters the room and decides to take a closer look at the box. Dorn offers it to her, but second-guesses his offering and puts the box back down on the floor so that Kevara can inspect it. Unfortunately, she can’t tell very much about it with the box closed. She cautions the others to be ready if something happens, but suggests that Dorn should be standing a little farther back, especially after the rosebush incident.
Kevara opens the box, resisting the effects that tug at her mind. Using her arcane talents, she seeks out the magical power within it, and finds that anyone hearing the music while the box is open is at risk of being controlled; to what end, however, she isn’t certain. A closer inspection of its creation also gives her the idea that the box was built to protect something.
While Kevara is investigating the box, Dorn is unable to resist the effects, and draws his sword. He swings for Kevara’s neck, but misses his mark, the blade whistling past her ear. Downstairs, Shayla has also been taken over, mentally ordering her spirit to attack Kevara, and she takes an unsuccessful stab at Lazan.
Panicked, Kevara slams the lid closed. Dorn blinks, shakes his head, then looks at Kevara and asks her if she’s going to open the box or not. Once everyone has gathered together, Kevara explains what she has discovered about the box. Dorn immediately suggests that they destroy it, but Kevara says that if it was built to protect something, destroying it may not be the best idea. The group confers briefly, and the majority agrees with Dorn – the box should be destroyed, if only to prevent anyone else from finding the box and allowing chaos to ensue.
Two strikes later, the box is broken apart, revealing a secret compartment and the remains of a glass key. Kevara sighs and shakes her head, then gathers up the pieces and puts them in a small component pouch for later.
Unable to find anything else of interest, the group steels themselves and heads for the theater. Investigating through cracks in the boards reveal that it is lighted inside, a single floor with a very tall ceiling. Listening at the door, they can hear faint music playing, but are unable to make it out. Opening the door, the group sees more of the dolls and strange wooden toys dancing on stage with a new addition; marionettes, that upon closer inspection are revealed to be the corpses of the children that the Dark Maven stole. Kevara’s stomach lurches as she realizes that not only were these creatures once living children, but the strings controlling them are made from their entrails.
Yeah, it’s okay. You can say it: there’s something wrong with me. Even more so, considering that while I’m telling them about this, I have the fight music from the Calcabrena battle from Final Fantasy IV playing in the background. Once the icon was dropped onto the map, though, there were a couple people who said, “Oh, that’s just gross, Pix.” These creatures were Carrionettes.
Behind the dancing toys and corpses, the group can see a withered old man swaying gently with the music, hands twitching slightly as he controls the movements of his creations.
The Dark Maven.
“What are YOU doing here?” he croaks, voice raspy and grating. He points at the group, and his toys stop moving, heads cocking to the side simultaneously to look at the party. “This is MY domain, and you are UNINVITED!”
The group moves closer to the stage, weapons at the ready. Halfway from the door to the stage, more dolls come in through the open doors, pulling them shut behind. The party is now surrounded, and a fight seems inevitable.
“Whatnots! Dolls! Carrionettes! ATTACK THEM!” shrieks the Maven, pointing at the group.
The dolls and whatnots move closer, and as the group engages the first of them, the carrionettes lash their arms forward, entrail-strings wrapping around rafters so that they can swing into the fray.
The party fights valiantly; the whatnots are easy to dispatch, and they fall swiftly. The dolls are more difficult; each hit allows them to step through shadows to a new location, and their rogue-like tactics give them many advantages. The party is lucky so far and is taking far less damage than they’re dishing out, but they’re still taking many hits. Shayla patches up the party as quickly as possible, and the group continues fighting. Two of the carrionettes take heavy damage, and the party looks on in horror as the two move closer together, and one appears to absorb the other in a mass of roiling flesh, leaving behind an unblemished enemy.