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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 19: Things That Go Bump In the Night

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Next up on the list of actions taken due to an irrational fear of mist, the Cupcakes hid inside a house. Being the Cupcakes, they opted for the largest house they could find. Because their irrational fears must always be measured against their avarice for loot.

Oh, what am I saying? There's no such thing as an irrational fear in this place.

Where we left off last week the group had found just such a place, and secured the bottom level. They'd found no precious materials, no ancient weapons, just the standard rooms one would expect from a home: a living area, dining room, kitchen, and study.

But hey, who leaves their valuables in the common areas anyways? The important stuff is always upstairs. Which made those areas next up on the tour.

As they reached the second floor they came upon a hall with two doors on the right, one on the left and one at the end. Dotted along its length were various objects covered with cloths. Curious, Loki removed the sheet from the first, finding a normal mirror. No reflected phantasms. No portal to someplace probably worse. No look into the viewer's soul. Just a mirror.

Disappointed, they moved on. Half way down the hall they found another covered object. This one turned out to be a large grandfather clock. Hazel quickly discovered the means of winding it, and started the pendulum going.

As she did that, Thor and Loki continued down the hall, finding another covered mirror. But this time, as Thor reached out to uncover it, Loki silently cast Vanish on him. The cloth came off, revealing nothing. Of course, Thor immediately turned a glare at Loki, a move completely missed by the other due in no small part to the glarer's newfound transparency.

And yet, Loki knew his brother well enough to guess his first thoughts. So he looked Thor right in where he assumed his eyes would be, and insisted he could still see him.

Thor did not even need to ask the others to see through that bluff. {Player's Note: Loki's bluff roll was just sad; we can assume he was too busy trying not to grin to give a good performance.}

Thor, showing great restraint, turned and marched to the end of the hall, and opened the door there. Said door was opened barely wide enough to reveal a master bedroom complete with emperor's sized bed when Loki breezed past Thor yelling 'dibs!'.

The Gnome then did a running triple axle into a double back flip, landing face up directly in the center of the bed. {Player's Note: He made quite the acrobatics check.} Loki immediately sank down until the top of his body was level with the top of the mattress.

Thor then decided that the largest bed belonged to the largest person, and launched himself clumsily upon it. Fortunately for Loki, Thor became visible in mid air, giving him barely enough time to clamber out of the depression his body had made and avoid a brotherly squashing. Thor sank much further down than did Loki.

Meanwhile, the others checked the three doors lining the hall, (with a hefty amount of eye rolling) finding three dormitories. And that was it. Still, no valuables, or useful items to be found. I mean, what kind of homeowner doesn't leave anything out for the passing burglar? It's just wrong.

Not that it mattered. As Loki quickly determined, all the whining in the world would not make such sparkly pretties manifest themselves. Perhaps the universe just didn't like them?

Either way, all that was left was to assign the watches. Loki immediately volunteered for first watch. Thor then insisted that someone had to keep an eye on him, and volunteered for the same watch. Loki then switched to the second watch, saying he wanted the master bed for himself.

Seeing the brewing of an argument that could well last the entire night, Steve then volunteered to take second watch with Loki. Which left Nebula and Hazel for third watch. Those not on watch immediately bedded down.

On Thor's first pass through the house he noted two things they'd missed. The first was an attic door set in the ceiling of the upper level. The other was another similar door set under a rug in the bottom level. And his first thought (as any sane person's would be upon finding unexplored areas of a new refuge) was to worry what Loki would do when he found said areas. No doubt he'd open them whilst everyone else slept, releasing who knew what kind of surprises for them.

He wasn't too worried about attic door; he simply hid the hook that went into a ring in the door and trusted gravity to keep the little shit in line. The bottom door was a bit trickier. But he solved that by moving the heaviest piece of furniture (one grandiose arm chair) to sit on top of it.

He was barely done with that task when the sounds of massive hooves started down the street running in front of the house. He did his best to get a peek at the thing through the boarded up windows, as it moved by, but all he could really say was that it's lower half was that of a skeletal horse. A very big skeletal horse.

As it passed there was the sound of something rending the outside wall on the second floor. Thor hurried quietly upstairs to find three massive claw marks running the width of the house. Nothing much happened after that. Thor awakened Steve and Loki at the appointed time, warning them of what he'd found and went to sleep.

About half way through their watch, Loki heard a knocking sound coming from a window in the living area. He responded (as any sane person would) by knocking back and saying a random name. A moment later, whatever it was knocked back, saying 'Loki'.

Now, most of us would be terrified at that moment; Loki was merely intrigued. He immediately knocked back, saying another random name. The . . . thing on the other side replied with a knock and a 'Steve'. This continued until all members of the house had been named. Once more Loki knocked, uttering a random name. But this time there was no response.

"That's what I thought," Loki then stated pridefully, as if he'd won some contest, before strutting away from the window. He made it half way across the room before something whispered, as if directly in his ear, 'Nuckelavee'.

He whipped around, but found the room empty. He immediately went to Steve, asking him if he knew what a Nuckelavee was. Steve didn't know. So they woke Hazel (barely) to ask her what this thing was, and if they should be concerned that it was in the house.

Only half awake, she gave the briefest of descriptions, and passed out again. Just from the size of the thing they were pretty sure it wasn't in the house. It did, however, fit the description of the thing Thor had seen quite well. Nothing else happened for the remainder of their shift.

Well, unless you count Loki visiting Thor to cast Ghost Sound upon him periodically. This didn't work out nearly as well as one would expect. Between the sound dampening qualities of sleeping three feet down in a mattress, not to mention poor perception rolls, the most Loki got out of Thor was a lazily waved hand shooing him away as if he were no more than a bothersome fly.

As the shift ended, Loki woke Hazel and Nebula, to tell them it was there shift. He then cast a Parthian shot by warning them to 'watch out for the Nuckelavee' as he left. He was gone before that name registered, waking Hazel up better than being dumped in a snow drift.

She immediately found Steve, who gave a proper report on the night's events before entering one of the dorm rooms and crashing. As Hazel walked the hall she noted that the clock's pendulum had stopped seven minutes after she'd started it. Yet she could still hear the mechanism inside unwinding.

While normally the Gnome's job, she decided to open the clock to look at the mechanism. She was able to ascertain that the shaft that transferred power from the mechanism to the pendulum was missing.

For some reason she then decided to stand over it giving the pendulum a little nudge every time it started to slacken in its pace. She claimed something about needing the white noise. Which left Nebula to mind the rest of the house.

About half way through the watch, the Nuckelavee returned, and attempted again to rend a section of the house. But this time nothing happened. Hazel quickly surmised that the moving pendulum of the clock was somehow to blame.

The next morning the group decided to have a look see at the two unexplored doors. Loki was quickly volunteered to check the upper. So, Thor pulled the door down, after producing the hidden hook, unfolding an attached ladder, and Loki climbed cautiously up it. At which point he screamed.

There was no real reason for him to scream. All he found was a small bedroom with one unboarded window overlooking the front of the house. He just wanted to scare the others for the temerity of volunteering him. Which, I suppose would be a good reason for him.

The other's responded by immediately closing the door again. Loki wasn't sure whether to be proud that his little joke had worked so well, or hurt that they'd shown they were clearly willing to abandon him at the drop of a scream.

He was still working that out when the window started to open itself. Loki immediately rushed over to close it. Again, it started to open. Again, he closed it. After four or five tries of this he asked who was there, gaining an indignant 'I live here, who are you?' in response.

At which point he apologized, and opened the window. Most likely because he thought he'd get some information out of any sapience, incorporeal or otherwise. But, once the ghost had entered, it refused to answer any more questions. And it wasn't like Loki could do anything about such rudeness; he couldn't even see the thing.

By that point the group had reopened the attic door, and was mounting a rescue/recovery mission. When asked why he'd screamed he shrugged saying "I wanted to see what you would do." He failed to mention anything of a ghost to them.

Which left the lower door. After removing the chair and carpet they found an identical door to the one that lead to the attic. Another hook was conveniently located nearby and used to open it. This led to a staircase downward into a flooded basement.

Nebula explored this, finding a series of boxes set upon a circular carving under the water, and a large double door set in the basement floor. Loki started to try and use Prestidigitation to move the water out, quickly realizing that it would take the better part of a day to do so.

While he was doing the math there, Thor had become quite curious about the boxes. He waded over and grabbed one, dragging it back upstairs. He opened it, uncovering a box that appeared to be filled with fresh hay.

Almost immediately the sounds of the Nuckelavee came to them as it charged down the street. Thor and Hazel took one look at each other before bolting for the clock. They reached it just as the Nuckelavee reached the front door. Loki followed, at a slightly more sedate pace, but continued to the attic bedroom.

As Thor started the pendulum there was a massive crash as if something very big had thrown itself bodily at the front door. Yet, when Loki checked through the window the door was fine, meaning that this was either one very well built door, or one extremely poorly built Nuckelavee.

Or something else.

Loki peeked out the window a little further, and watched as the disgusting horse/man thing hurled itself at the door, only to be stopped by some invisible force.

As a test Loki yelled down to Thor to stop the pendulum. Sadly, such was his yell that it alerted said unwanted guest. It looked directly at him before sending one overlong clawed hand rocketing towards the window.

Loki pushed himself away from the window, yelling for Thor to start it up again. The claws tips breached the wood around the window, and were just starting to tighten, to rip the entire wall out, when they suddenly went lax. This followed by a massive bellowing scream and the sounds of the Nuckelavee beating hooves back the way it had come.

Loki approached the window cautiously to find that, when Thor had started the pendulum back up, the force that had prevented it entry had severed the monstrosity's arm just below the shoulder.

Hazel took over for Thor at the clock, and the latter reclosed and replaced the box. Loki went back down the basement and asked what was in the boxes. The ghost replied from directly next to him (causing quite the jump) that the boxes contained parts of the Nuckelavee. At which point it was necessary for Loki to introduce the spirit to the others.

Not that it did much good; the ghost refused to explain how the . . . parts, been acquired, or for what purpose, which was probably for the best; they probably didn't want to know the answer.

It did affirm that the clock was what kept the Nuckelavee out, and gave them a possible location for another like clock they may just be able to cannibalize to get this one running full time. Nothing is more annoying than a part time clock, right? Those aren't even right twice a day!

Hazel then went to examine the circle the boxes were in, finding that it was a nondetection circle. But, not just any nondection circle. This was of such expert craftsmanship (magesmanship?) that it did not even read as magical in nature.

After that Thor and Hazel worked together to open the doors in the bottom of the basement. She disassembled a chair, taking the leg down to be used as a brace. Once Thor (master of all things strength check) had opened them enough, she wedged it in, allowing the basement to drain.

Nebula stood by, prepared to stop the boxes from moving again, but that particular precaution proved unnecessary; the boxes stayed exactly as they were.

The door led to a tunnel that had been dug through the dirt and limestone of the area. They followed it down a steep angle until it ended in a massive cavern. There were several exit tunnels. One a few feet up on the left. One twenty or so feet up on the left. And one at ground level on the right.

That last tunnel was blocked with debris, and appeared ready to collapse further should anyone try to move it. The first one on the left led on for a bit before heading straight up in a dead end inhabited by water scorpions. Hazel checked the last by casting fly on herself. But, when she reached the top, she found dozens of red eyes staring back at her. And, in this particular case, the group decided that discretion was the better part of valor.

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