Returning to the main hall, Jozan joined Avaniel to look at the mysterious tree planted in Wildweeper Villa. They were certain that not only was this not a common tree, but it could not be a tree rare to these parts either. It was obviously special or very foreign to these lands. Many foreign plants were known to have trouble in soil and conditions very different from the norm. It was then that the pair recalled what the brownies near the drake cave in Noongloom Wood had said. They had told them to look for purple blossomed trees near Wellcliff to see the path to King Brightcedar, the leader of the Molagona fey. While this was not a blossoming tree, and they were still far from Wellcliff, they gathered that maybe this tree had origins with the fey as well.
The unearthly counting began to continue, and the men quickly confirmed with each other that they had indeed all been hearing the same counting. It would rhyme in a dangerous, suspenseful tone at times, and all three men were on edge. Moving to the staircase upstairs, Jozan noted a feeling of repulsion at the foot of the incline. Saluhul met similar resistance, but Avaniel moved by unhindered. Upon reaching the first landing, Avaniel spotted a pair of apparitions that materialized on the landing for a moment. A woman cloaked in white with deep red hair caressed the face of a small elven child caringly. The child hugged the woman before they faded away. The odd scene piqued the half elf’s curiousity to continue up the stairs while Jozan and Saluhul went around the side.
Going to the side of the staircase revealed a metal vessel topped by a metal wheel. A variety of pipes led forth from the quizzical item. Neither the high archer nor druid could ascertain its purpose, though Jozan ascertained it and the pipes to be magical. Avaniel continued his climb towards the second floor of the estate. It opened up on both sides to him. Arbitrarily pick a location to scout first, he opened up a door to discover a trio of apparitions looking around a room filled with hunting trophies. A pair of apparitions materialized. One, an elven man in green regalia, spoke to another elf, an archer by the look of him.
The man in green spoke, “The ritual can be carried out by the others without my presence, surely Brightcedar will understand that I cannot afford to leave my daughter in such a state.”
The other replied, “I dare not risk offending the fae. Your presence is needed. We are still new to these lands by fae and elven standards. Please come with us so our magic can remain without offense or issue.”
With the decalration made, the apparitions faded away, leaving Avaniel alone once more. The counting would continue. Jozan and Saluhul continued to the rear of the estate. Turning a corner, they spotted another ragged attic whispherer near a door. Jozan spoke kindly to the undead creature, inquiring what lie in the door. The creature said the door was locked, and that sometimes “sister and daddy” would venture into the room with strange men. He then pleaded with the men not to let Marsley or Ezrahod know he had said anything about it or tried to enter. He then scampered off to join in the hiding game once more.
Sensing danger quickly coming, Jozan called to Avaniel to come back to the group. On reaching the count of twn, there was a silence. Tense moments continued to roll by as Avaniel made his way back to the stairs. Suddenly, Jozan’s strength was leeched from his chest as a pair of shadowy talons sprang from the wall next to him and through his armor. He recoiled, and his foe stepped forth.
The vaguely humanoid shape lurched forth, a pile of rolling black vapor. A small, star-like flicker emanated from within the core of the thing. It bounded forth, contorting around the defenses of the companions, reaping the very strength from them with every blow. The furious melee continued for far too long, Saluhul finding his weapons once again ineffective against the insubstantial form of the creature. The flaming battleaxe of jozan continued to melt and burn away the fog about the monster until nothing remained but glass like bones. A few more strokes shattered the bones of the monster, and the flickering spark within swirled off.
The men quickly gathered themselves and bolted for the door, wanting nothing more to do with this mansion. Jozan was the last to make it to the door. He turned when he heard a door open and close behind him. At the doorway was a corpse in faded black regalia. The things walked on unsteady legs towards the druid.
“Welcome, are you guests to the villa.”
“No, we were just leaving,” stammered Jozan as he bolted from the door.
Looking through the gate to the gardens of the villa, the men dreaded crossing the scarecrow covered grounds. But there was something else, something missing. The men thought what it could be as the front door closed behind them.