Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Thu May 09, 2019 6:38 pm

After the bizarre attack by the masked highwaymen, we decided Mrs Black, the coachwoman, would drop us off at Mrs Clarke's cottage and then proceed to the constabulary post to report the attack.

Mrs Esme Clarke's grand niece lived with her in a good sized two story cottage with a beautiful and lovingly cared for garden. The niece informed us that her great aunt was resting, but agreed to fetch her. She installed us in the parlor, and, after we declined refreshments, went upstairs where she promptly screamed. Rushing upstairs we found the elderly woman unwakable. What with the niece screaming, it took me way longer than it should have for me to determine that she was irretrievably dead. In fact I was eventually able to determine that she had been dead for between one and two hours before we arrived, and that she had been smothered to death by a pillow left laying on the floor nearby. My companions soothed the niece somewhat, and sent a child passing outside to fetch the constabulary. Investigations of the house and room determined that it would have been fairly easy for somebody to slip in ether from the back door and back stairway, or the window. The window showed signs of having been jimmied. The climb up to the window would not have been difficult, but other than the marks on the window latch, we found no evidence that anybody had done so.

The constables, when they arrived, did not clarify the situation in the time we were there. Some of them spent a good deal of time interrogating Captain Barnes on suspicion of being a Snark with an Attitude. I felt fortunate that they did not hassle me as well, but apparently on that day it fell out that being a British Snark was more suspicious than being a Human Foreigner (for you know I was still base human back then). Other days the peelers were less forgiving of dark skin. The constables barely mentioned the attack on the road, though they did confirm that it had been reported to them.

Reasoning that the spirit of Mrs Clarke might still be lingering about her body, I attempted to bring it forth and speak with it. This was the first time I had ever attempted to contact a human spirit (or at least the first attempt since I had awoken in my powers) and the first time I attempted to contact a human spirit who was not an ancestor of mine. I had mixed results. I was able to establish communication with the spirit, but the spirit was in such a state of uproar that I got little from it. The spirit was continually reviewing her own murder, but with a pillow over her face, she had apparently sensed nothing useful. The only question of mine she answered was one that had apparently vexed her greatly these last few years and caused her to briefly exclaim that "The Arsenic had gone missing! Lord Powys had been in good health. I have treated him since he was a boy and he was in excellent health! And the Arsenic had gone missing!", but then I could feel her returning to reviewing her own murder again, but not speaking any clues. The niece denied that any such suspicions had every been voiced in her hearing. Upon offering our deepest condolences to the grieving niece and taking our leave of her and the police, we returned to the manor.

The theory we were starting to develop, is that 2 years ago, Lord Powys, was murdered by Arsenic poisoning for reasons unknown by persons unknown. The Apothecary suspected it, but did not share her suspicions widely. When we broadcast her name earlier in the day, somebody decided she was a loose end that needed to be tied up, and killed her. The same group, or a different group ambush us on our way to meet her, The ambushers yell incoherent warnings. We still have no idea how any of this ties in with the missing hall of statuary. In short, we know next to nothing.

Before dinner, we briefly discuss what in our investigation to share with Lady Jane and her other guests. We decide that since we have nothing other than a suspicions that her Husband was murdered, and way more new questions than answers, that we will wait until we have more answers. We do mention that we now have a list of engine-run security doors, and that we have only located 6 of the 8 engine-run doors. We ask if anybody knows of the other two, and Lady Jane and Mssr Niece think they can lead us to at least one more. We agree that they shall do so after dinner.

Durring dinner Professor Grundal started acting more and more agitated. He complained that his food tasteless. Finally he made a huge scene by throwing his dishes against the wall and storming out. Everybody was mortified. In hindsight I wish that I had used Astral Sight to view him, for I fear his agitation was not of natural origin.

After dinner, Lady Jane and Mssr Niece lead us, as promised, to a ground floor door with a security terminal that Mrs Montague opened using her new security card. It opened into a Long Hall, but our hope that it contained the missing statuary was dashed as it contained nothing but paintings. I wondered if maybe the statues used to be there, but the dust and decor indicated that it had always been a gallery of paintings. We did however decide that the most likely place for a gallery of statues was ether immediately above, or immediately below this hall. At the other end of long hall was an old abandoned conservatory. Rather than attempt the maze-like qualities of the house, we unlatched the conservatories gardeners entrance and looking immediately above it found a porch. I fetched a ladder from a gardeners shed I had noticed on my initial inspection of the grounds the day previous, and we all climbed onto the porch. There we were confronted by some beautiful french doors. The doors were, alas, locked. Lady Jane kindly gave permission for some moderate breakage, but I decided that the least destructive method was summon a small earth spirit that could manipulate metal to flip the leavers to unlock it. This actually did work, but the spirit manifested inside a bit of decorative grill-work, and when it de-manifested, it chose to leave one section of the grill-work with a different, discordant pattern than the rest. I am afraid it looks quite wrong.

We were all anxious to look inside. The 6 of us (for Lady Jane's Ladies Maid had also accompanied us) entered the dark hall. We all felt great tension and more than one person checked to see that whatever weapons they carried were loose in their scabbards. Those of us with low-light vision saw movement about halfway down the hall. Mssr Niece strode forth boldly, and I decided to keep pace with him. The hall was crowded with statuary, most of it under dust-cover sheets. The dust was thick upon the sheets and other surfaces and the air was musty. Because of the many sheet clad statues, it was not until we were quite close to the center of the hall that the scene there resolved itself.

Two shapes right in the center were not covered with dust-sheets. One was a statue that had one arm held far forward from it's body. From this arm dangled the hung corpse of professor Grundal, whom had stormed out of the dining room less than an hour previously. The other was not a statue per-say, but a huge stone box or sarcophagus. Mssr niece did not hesitate in the slightest but walked right up to the sarcophagus, whipped out a knife and pricked his palm deeply. then held it over the box. I was so shocked by this action that I did nothing but watch amazed as 7 distinct drops of blood fell from his hand into the sarcophagus. After the 7th drop fell he closed his hand upon a handkerchief as he excitedly watched a huge, huge desiccated corpse step from the box!

The corpse could have been nothing but a troll, but it was so old and desiccated that it could not possibly have died after the rabbit hole opened. So what we were seeing could only have been a pre-rabbit-hole troll corpse. But of course there were no pre-rabbit-hole trolls, even as corpses! What we were seeing was impossible, unless of course this sarcophagus was from the OTHER side of the rabbit hole. Could this troll be a Samsut corpse? What was it doing here? The Troll stepped out of it's box and grasped the corpse of the dwarf hanging by his neck next to him. Instantly the corpse of the small spiritualist also began to move, but it did not struggle as someone needing air would struggle if hung, it struggled merely as somebody who wanted down would struggle.

The horrible realization stole upon me that we were facing Samsut zombie magic! And two zombies! And that Mssr Niece was a traitor and a murderer.

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Sun May 19, 2019 9:38 pm

The ensuing fight was both brutal and confusing. The room was dark and full of statuary. We were libel to loose sight of any opponent or friend that was more than a few arms lengths away. Worst of all, we did not know for sure whom was on whose side. We had entered the room thinking that Mssr Niece was on our side, but his blood magic soon convinced us all otherwise. Mssr Nieces treachery was not be the last surprise of the night! Further, the confusion did not clear up that night. When we eventually returned to London we were still almost totally in the dark about what had happened. It was not until we got Mssr Nieces journal decrypted and translated that we finally figured out some of the mysteries, and some of the events that happened that night remain confounding mysteries even to this day!

I was so young back then, totally untrained in combat, unarmed, unarmored, and without any spells that were of any use (other than the one that was allowing me to see in the dark).. Mssr Niece and myself were up next to the sarcophagus, and therefor the desiccated Troll, while the others had hung back somewhat. I briefly pondered whether the troll could be banished, but reluctantly concluded that whatever the troll now was, it was not a manifesting spirit, nor a strange spirit possessing a body. This was something different, and Banish was not going to work.

As quickly as I could, I summoned an Earth Elemental that manifested within a statue of a young shepherdess, and then an Air Elemental that manifested as a whirlwind of dust within that long closed room. Both of these I sent against Mssr Niece, hoping to remove him from the fight before we were forced to square up against the undead Troll. Not attacking the Troll proved to be better tactic than I had hoped. For Mssr Niece and the troll had started arguing. Niece had apparently given the undead being a command (I could not understand a single word of the language they were speaking - but the tone of voice and gestures of both were eloquent, even if their words were incomprehensible), and the troll had apparently told Niece where his orders could be shoved. They exchanged a number of heated words before starting to exchange blows. In the meantime my summoned spirits were attacking Niece, which the troll apparently took to be an appreciated position.

In the meantime, I could hear that everybody else in the room were fighting someone. There were gunshots, the clash of blades, and bellows of battle. I finally realized they were fighting each other, Miss Montague and Captain Barnes vs Lady Jane and her maid. Later I was told that Lady Jane attacked Miss Montague as soon as the commotion started in front of the sarcophagus. The Maid was particularly deadly as I had occasion to learn to some small measure when she suddenly appeared beside me and stabbed me before vanishing again into the dark confusion. When I later on bandaged all the wounds I had reason to appreciate that my single wound was among the least damaging that she dealt that night, yet it pained me sorely.

I had summoned a 2nd Air spirit, which I had sent out into the garden to bring me back some shrubberies. My other Air spirit had engulfed niece, and was slowly smothering him, when the Troll cast some sort of outlandish spell the likes of which I have never heard of since. A huge gibbering mouth, surrounded by tentacles appeared in the air. I took the first shrubbery the air spirit returned with, cast Entangle upon it, and threw it upon Niece.It was a mostly wasted effort, since a few seconds later the tentacles of the huge mouth grabbed Niece and drug him into the mouth, which then ate him. The mouth was not attached to a throat or head or anything, the eaten man simply disappeared into nothingness. I can only describe the mouth as some sort of horrible Astral Maw, the memory of which disturbed my sleep for years afterwords.

In the meantime the corpse of Professor Grundal had finally freed itself from the noose that had killed him. The corpse, maddened with blood-lust fell upon Lady Jane and tore her limb from limb. Her ladies maid the dwarf Chastity Brown, grappled with the undead and called upon us to slay the abomination. The troll cast a new spell and transformed itself into an 18 inch long flying worm (or maybe snake), and flew out into the garden, leaving us in possession of the battlefield.

I realizing that I had not heard Miss Catherine Montague in quite some time, searched her out, I found her lying in a pool of blood with a very grievous head injury. At first I thought she was dead, it was nothing but the rate that her wound continued to bleed that convinced me that her heart must still be pumping. It took me 40 minutes to get her stabilized, and I regret to say the exterior of her left ear was a total loss. At the end of that surgery, I learned that Captain Barnes had nether slain the animated cadaver, nor the ladies maid, leaving them to their own devises. The ladies maid had destroyed the animated cadaver, but was nearly dead herself from her wounds. I stopped those in the hope that she could explain Lady Jane's actions to us.

There was so much we still did not know. Where had this sarcophagus come from? I had assumed at first it must be Samsut (since it held a long dead troll), but the room it was in had been long sealed, and the sarcophagus was covered in dust, it must have been in that room since before the Rabbit Hole opened. It seemed like it could only have come from the Rabbit Hole, but it also could not possibly have come from the Rabbit Hole! How had Professor Grundal's body gotten hung there? I would swear that Lady Jane did not know where the room was, nor how to get into it, since she was so excited that it was finally found. Niece might have known how to get into the room, and might possibly have killed Grundal (we still did not know why), but we had no idea why he seemed so suicidely quick to take advantage of our entrance. Why not wait until we had gone to try to bring the troll back to life? Or did he know how to get into the room all along, but perhaps was our presence there the whole point? Could he have known that a life would be required and we were there for the sole purpose of providing that life. He obviously did not realize that the troll would insist that the life to be sacrificed would need to be his own. We had those and a hundred other questions remaining.

After I had finished my surgeries on Montague and Brown, the butler tracked us down and telegraphed the constabulary. Before they showed up I barely had time for a quick wash of my hands, then nipped to our rooms to quickly ransack Mssr Nieces and Professor Grundels luggage for any papers or journals that might shed some light on this whole confusing mess.

When talking to the police we managed to piece together a tapestry of truth and omission that explained everybodies injuries, placing the blame solely upon Mssr Niece and the two animated corpses of the troll (which had fled) and Grumble. We stated with perfect truth that the animated corpse of Grumble had killed Lady Jane, and almost killed Chastity Brown. We conveniently omitted any mention of them trying to kill us or visa versa, Once she woke up, and while we were there, Miss Brown, for her own reasons, also felt it wise to gloss over any complicating occurrences that would have detracted from the simple story: "Mad Wizard raises monsters which attack and kill beloved local noble-woman. Her loyal retainers battle the Mad Wizard and the monsters, the Mad Wizard and one of the monsters are slain, one monster escapes to terrorize the countryside. Local residents should beware".

All of which was perfectly true. Or at least true enough. I was using the term Wizard rather loosely. Back then it did not have quite the codified and stringent meaning that it has today. I still feel that the term "Mad" was perfectly accurate. "Beloved" also might have been a bit of a stretch, but the local press reporting on the incident also said Lady Jane was "beloved", so the historical record bares me out. "escapes to terrorize the countryside" was just pure speculation. but I was in the countryside and I was terrified of it. So much so that I left the countryside for London as soon as miss Montague could manage to hobble from a carriage to a train. "Local residents should beware" is always safely prudent. So, all in all, the story was true enough.

In the time it took for us to recover enough to travel back to London I also made some rubbings of the strange engravings upon the sarcophagus. In London, the law office was dismayed to learn that Lady Jane was dead, but did pay us for our investigation.
Last edited by ChrisDDickey on Mon May 20, 2019 9:40 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Slimcreeper » Mon May 20, 2019 1:29 am

Mwah hahahah!

Sorry, I had a great deal of fun with all the treachery. Don't get used to it, in the next adventure I'm playing everyone straight. I promise.

You would have discovered that Prof. Grundle had accessed the Legh Keck hall through the Lumber Room, the place where they stored furniture too out-of-style to use but too nice to just get rid of. Also, assuming you find someone to translate at least the French part of Mssr. Níce's papers you will learn more of the story, which future Cusa would know.

But there are lots of questions remaining. Which questions will you explore? Which ones will come back to haunt you?

Mwah hahahah!

Sorry, last time, I promise.

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Slimcreeper » Mon May 20, 2019 1:58 am

Also, my favorite GMC moment was definitely Lady Jane rolling a 38 on a slough blame test to convince Cpt Barnes that she’d had nothing to do with stabbing Ms. Montgomery despite Lady Jane having stabbed Ms. Montgomery less than 6 seconds prior.

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by ChrisDDickey » Mon May 20, 2019 9:56 am

I have edited the last three paragraphs of my prior post to include the story that the police were told.

Yes, future storytelling Cusa would know more than I know now, that is why I try so hard to mostly tell what he was thinking at the time and not skip ahead to much except for where it is a pretty safe bet. For example when I say "I still think Niece was Mad". Seems like a safe bet. In the first in the first paragraph I say " It was not until we got Mssr Nieces journal decrypted and translated that we finally figured out some of the mysteries, but some of the events that happened that night remain confounding mysteries even to this day!" Seems like a fairly safe bet. but Cusa is not telling the story as he learned it later, he is telling the story as he thought it was at the time. So any mistaken assumptions he later learns are false are stated as what he thought at the time.

OK, so Grumble got in through the Lumber room. But we still don't know who or what killed him. Cusa will have examined that rope to see if it was magical and/or part of a trap.

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by utsukushi » Tue Jun 04, 2019 8:15 pm

*Whew!* Finally finished this -- sorry it is so long. I ended up covering all three of the final sessions together, because it just never made sense for her to stop and start again.

Cathryn writes in, as one might expect, a light, flowing script, with many unnecessary loops and twirls. It is, however, precise, and remarkably crisp, without a smudge or splotch to be found. Once one gets the hang of it, it is quite legible.

Dear Charles;

It was lovely visiting the other week. Do please say hello to your mother the next time you see her. It was a shame she wasn't home when I came by; I always thought we got on rather well. I trust you are all well. But I write, of course, in keeping my word to keep you informed as to my activities and progress. For this week, I fear, little progress, but of activities! I trust this will bring a touch of excitement to your day, though I'm sure your latest meeting with the board was fraught with adventure.

Our current employer is Lady Jane - yes, that Lady Jane. As you know, her husband passed recently, and she has inherited a place called Bank Hall, among other properties. It's out by Bretherton, if you're interested. Lovely scenery, to be sure. We travelled there, naturally, by train; perhaps you've read my review in the paper? Obviously this has taken me away from my personal project, but it has been most exciting!

You see, her Ladyship has a mystery. There is an entire hallway filled with the works of Antonio Conova that she is quite certain exists, but cannot find. I know this is not unusual for such a large and remote property, but the staff who live there year round ought to know, and they are strangely reticent about the matter. What's more, significant portions of the house are (or so they claim!) quite inaccessible, whether due to lost keys, or an inability to override an Engine-driven security system!

As a result of this, we are all - even the Lady herself - housed in the guest quarters! If I were more prone to gossip, it would be quite scandalous, I assure you. We are separated from the men by nothing but a hallway! Each room is marked by a pot of flowers, though, of different colors, which I do find to be a very nice touch. As it was available, I took the one marked by bluebells, of course. The other rooms are occuped by Lady Jane, her cousin Clement Nice, and a spiritualist we met on the train, Professor Grundle. I've never heard of him, I confess, but it's not really my area of interest either. Clement seems to be a bit French, but it is somewhat amusing to note that his last name is pronounced as "niece." "Cousin Niece" is just an amusing thought. Otherwise, he does seem, as the spelling might imply, friendly, but I have my suspicions - he seems an terribly distant relative to be so concerned with her situation.

Oh, and of course my companions from Faraday! Cusa is a foreigner and also a spiritualist of sorts, though from what I have observed he follows a more primitive tradition. He is remarkably well spoken, though. The other is Piper! Actually, I'm not certain you know Piper personally. She wasn't at University; I've known her since childhood, more or less. She is of the Barnes family? Likely the name rings a bell, at least.

She was something of a rising star in the military, with a command position in, I do believe, the Gruv, when she was unfortunately Snarked. We hadn't really been in touch for a while, but she reached out to me after that, having, I suppose, heard of my own trip through the Looking Glass. I do think it's dreadful what the change has meant for her; had she only emerged an Elf, or even a Dwarf, I'm sure she would still be in her position. But I suppose one can't really fault her soldiers for being a little uncomfortable following a Snark. They do have such tempers. In any case, I don't believe her rank was officially removed, but her position was certainly withdrawn, and now she, too, finds herself accepting work from Faraday. Still, for my part, I'm happy to have her along.

But on with the adventure! There was little to do when we arrived, as it was already nearly dinner time. We had just enough time to freshen up before gathering to dine. The lamb was quite lovely, accompanied by fresh mint. Clement (the cousin, you may recall) explained that he has come by to see how Lady Jane is holding up after her husband's passing. I presume he is somewhat opportunistic - you know the type - but perhaps they were closer before? And even if he hopes to gain something by it, I'm sure his concern is genuine, also. I will confess, a part of me continued seeking clues for the murder on the train - yes, murder! If you haven't, you really must read my review - but it does begin to seem unlikely that it has any relation to our mystery. While it may still be well worth solving, I fear it may be impossible from here.

In the morning, we got to work. In inquired as to where the Analytic Engine that controls the doors was housed, and was told that it is handled by a Lovelace named Mr. Drury, who will apparently be by tomorrow. Alas, it seems no one can access the room without him, though I was shown where it is, and there is a reciprocal terminal in the hallway outside.

...Ah, yes, Charles, I am certain you see where I am going with this. It was too fun a puzzle to simply ignore. I had a moment to study the terminal before I retired to my room, where I spent the next few hours cutting a key card. The system is a clever one, based on the date and so constantly changing. (And given that the Clock Tower is evidently among the rooms inaccessible without such a key, I suspect it actually takes the date directly from it, which... well, depending upon the threat, could be a system vulnerability, but can also be a strength.) It took me a few hours to perfect, but by lunch I had a card properly aligned for the day.
I gather the other two went up to the rooftops? I'm not sure what they hoped to accomplish there, though I suppose an overview of the household would not be amiss. When we reconvened after luncheon, however, I learned what they had accomplished, though: A mysterious note, slipped into Piper's pocket! It directed us to find a Mrs. Esme Clarke, promising answers, but naturally failing to answer a most crucial question of its own: Who is Esme Clarke?

Now, Piper has never been the most patient person; she's quite refreshingly direct in both manner and approach - evidently, she found that the house had an integrated system of loudspeakers, and announced her desire to meet with Mrs Clarke directly. I daresay it would never have occurred to me! As it is, I do recall hearing her voice and being intrigued by the system, but I had still been working at the time. When we spoke after lunch, she explained that hte butler had come and informed her that Mrs. Clarke was a previous employee - an apothecary, it seems - who had left after the old Lord died, and he had no idea how we might have come across her name, let alone why we would wish to speak with her. But he did allow that she lived in Bretherton, as one might expect. But this presented us with a devilish dilemma; should we make use of my key while it worked? Or should we go straightaway to Bretherton to follow up on this note? I was concerned that Piper's announcement might have drawn unwanted attention, but then, that sort of thing can be useful as well.

If I had known... ah, well, I'd certainly have chosen differently. I'm sure we all would have. But it seemed wise to make use of the key while it worked, and see what time we had left after. I let us into the room where the house Analytic Engine is kept. If I'm being perfectly frank, Charles, I was a little let down. Quite irrationally, but nevertheless. It seems Lord Powys was an early adopter, which is quite interesting of course, but also means that the Engine is one of the older models. Another magnetically locked door opened a room to a smaller Engine, which actually controlled the doors and other security measures directly, and also opened to yet a third sealed door that opened finally to a room full of paper records dating back many decades. I don't actually think any of us are particularly good with that sort of thing - we could dearly have used your help then, if you were interested in such a life! But I left the other two to look through them and returned to the Engines.

With access to the Security Engine directly, I was easily able to print off a master keycard that would work regardless of the date. (Although it uses a six digit marker for the date, meaning, as I'm sure you surmise, only two digits for the year, so I suspect my card will cease to function come the year 1900. However, it is quite possible their whole system will freeze up if it is still installed by then. No one is entirely certain, yet Engines continue to be built on the six-digit system because it is, to be fair, a good deal simpler. Mine, I shall note, uses a nine digit system, which I simplified by making it a trinary base. The mechanics of it are a little tricky, but it works a treat, and will continue to do so until the year 10,000 AD - well after, I fear, the mechanics will have given out.)

I also checked the logs and was able to determine that indeed, the doors the staff has been claiming are inaccessable have not been accessed. I confess this surprised me a little - it cast a different light on things, to be sure, relative to the shadowy dealings we had suspected. This also yielded a list of the doors that were so secured, most of which we could easily identify ("Eng", "Sec", and "Rcrds" were clearly the three right here; "Lbry", "Offic" and "Clock" were all equally simple, while "Kthn" and "LHall" were somewhat more obscure; we surmised perhaps Kitchen for the first, but I remain unclear as to why the Kitchen would warrant one of the security doors, and LHall... well, that sounded quite likely to be the missing hallway we were looking for, does it not? Regardless of what the L might signify - Left? Lower? Lost? Although to designate something as The Lost Hallway seems unlikely as it surely could not have been lost at the time it was so designated.) But now that I had a perpetual key, it felt less pressing to be here - I scrubbed my prints, as the Byrons say (at least in the penny dreadfuls), which is to say, I found where it had tracked my current activations and erased them. Lovelaces do get so touchy about these things, and at this point I simply had no idea who to trust. That took only a few more minutes, and then we left, locking up behind us.

From there we went to the courtyard, where we were able to engage the Coachman, a Mrs. Black; a stalwart woman, indeed. With her agreement, we could easily visit Bretherton and be back by dinner!

And here, dear Charles, I must advise you to set your cup down. Less than halfway to Bretherton, we were -- oh, how do I put it? We were assaulted! Piper must be, and indeed seemed, quite accustomed to it, but Cusa and I, as well as poor Mrs. Black, were quite taken aback. Three people on Selkies! Not the mythological selkies, obviously, but the new motorized vehicles, a bit like a horse with wheels. They were dressed as clergy, but I've no idea if that was simply a guise or not; their behavior was, as I have said, most un-clerical! They were shooting at us, Charles! With rifles! It was exciting, to be sure, but I daresay a good deal less, well, fun, than it had often seemed in my imagination. Piper had her own rifle, of course, and returned fire. I had brought my pistol, at least, but before I could draw it out, one of them had pulled up alongside our wagon and seemed to be aiming directly for Mrs. Black!

Whatever their issue with us might have been, it was in no manner her fault. Not to say that I could have allowed them to shoot at any of us, really, but Mrs. Black was quite out of the question, and the Selkies... well, they're cute, and I do so want one, but they are also simple devices, and I also had my EMID. You remember EMID, don't you? Of course you do - I used to help you cheat on exams with it. The ElectroMagnetic Interface Device, yes. I've improved on it a bit since University, actually; smaller magnets and much smaller, if more precisely placed, crystals, and I've found that with an array of wiring the silk needn't interfere with its function -- well, nevermind, I suppose it's not really crucial to the story, is it? The point is, once he was close enough, it was simple enough to simply reach into his engine with EMID and... shut it down. A bit abruptly, as it happens, sending him crashing into the ditch alongside the road.

Piper and another, who seemed generally to be in charge, exchanged a few more shots, and I fear Piper was hit, but she bore it stoically. Cusa began to glow - some magic, clearly - and did his best to stand between the attackers and Mrs. Brown, who by this time was quite incoherent and barely keeping control of the horses. The third of our assailants came up quickly behind our coach and rammed into the back of it, entangling his Selkie with the rear chassis in a way that I could not quickly extract. And Piper... she... well, she stabbed him. With her saber. It was, as you can see, entirely in self-defense, and indeed, defense of all of us, but it was more than a little shocking to me regardless. He fell away, I was finally able to push his Selkie off, and the last of them went to tend to him, only shouting some sort of dire warning after us - something to the effect that we would regret it if we awakened something.

Once the adrenaline wore off, we all quite agreed that if they had wished to warn us about something, there are innumerable approaches that would have been better, but that did not necessarily mean that their warning was invalid. I, for one, began to seriously consider whether perhaps we should join the staff of Bank Hall in ignorance, give Lady Jane our apologies, and go home.

And Bretherton offered little to settle my mind, I fear. Mrs. Esme Clarke was already, and quite recently, dead. By "recently", do allow me to be clear, I refer to hours, perhaps minutes, before we arrived - smothered to death with her own pillow. As she was rather elderly, it could have been done by almost anyone. Either someone set out by horse before we left Bank Hall, or, more likely, a telegram was sent, soon after Piper's announcement. It seemed clear to me that someone had climbed up her trellis and entered through the unlocked window, but Cusa insisted upon pointing out the perfectly serviceable back stairway that could have allowed an attacker in just as easily, if a good deal more boringly. However, while the police interviewed Piper (snarks always seem to draw their attention, you know), he more than made up for this by - and you may wish to set your tea aside again - calling her spirit back! I've never seen the like!

I took notes, of course. I also closed the door the moment I realized what he was doing; it seemed an inopportune thing to have the police walk in on, let alone her niece, who I imagine would have been quite distraught. The temperature in the room dropped precipitously, to the point of frost on the window. I put on my goggles (the ones father bought me last Christmas; I'm sure I've mentioned them) and, with their heat-sensing lenses, could see that the temperature was not simply low, it was improbably erratic. Very low here, remarkably high there, almost more as though the thermics were somehow separated. There seemed to me to be a distinct swirl of cold, but when I look back at my attempts to sketch out the pattern, they don't look quite how I remember it. I hope to have the chance to observe him doing this again, or perhaps another Spiritualist, someday, for better data, perhaps under better circumstances. Although I suppose any circumstances allowing someone to contact a recently deceased spirit will require someone to have recently become deceased. Anyway, it was also rather distressing, and had I been less fascinated I'm sure I'd have found room to be so distressed at the time; a vague impression that I presume was Mrs. Clarke swirled about the room, decrying her death - the darkness, the crushing weight in her lungs. She seemed quite unaware of me, and only faintly aware of Cusa, reacting only when he asked about Lord Powys's death. With that her wailing changed from furious to desperate, imploring him to take note that the arsenic was missing.

After what I believe was really only about... fifteen, perhaps twenty seconds? I didn't actually think to time it, something I shall also have to amend at the next opportunity. In any case, either he released her or she faded away, I was unsure which, and we could no longer put off our own interviews with the police. They were polite, and I was, I confess, uninformative. I could easily imagine how it would go had I explained that we were attacked by good men of God on our way here, or that I feared poor Mrs. Clarke had been murdered to stop her speaking with us about a matter of a missing hallway, of all things, let alone what I had just witnessed! And I fear the world is sometimes a little too prepared to believe that a pretty young woman has no idea what is going on around her. It is vexing in principal, but sometimes useful in practice.

The ride back to Bank Hall was a good deal more somber, and of course more paranoid, but we were not attacked again, nor did we see any signs of our earlier attackers. Well, that's not entirely true - there were tracks from the Selkies, places they had broken through the hedges lining the road, that sort of thing, but the machines and men themselves, including the one Piper had so grievously wounded, were nowhere to be seen. We rode mostly in silence, save a brief discussion just before reaching the Hall as to whether or not to tell Lady Jane about anything that had transpired today, agreeing that perhaps we should, but it was hardly dinnertime conversation. With the agreement, at least, to wait until after dinner to discuss business, we adjourned to our rooms to freshen up that we might be more presentable company.

Of course a change of clothes always leaves one feeling better, so I was in good spirits as we sat down to dine! Alas, this lasted but moments, as before the soup was done Cusa explained that we had accessed the Engine room, had an illicit key, and explained the list of doors I had obtained. Regrettably, I was not seated across from him, and could not kick him under the table. I did consider spilling my wine in hopes it might interrupt the conversation, but I wasn't certain he would understand. I do realize that much of what I was so aghast to have openly laid out at the table was simply beyond him - it would likely not have been fair to expect him to understand that there was simply no legitimate way in which we could have secured that list, or to realize the steps I had taken to cover our tracks there. But I had thought we were all agreed in not yet knowing who to trust, and that we should share sensitive information only with Lady Jane herself, perferably someplace private. And certainly I remembered agreeing not to discuss business at dinner. I suppose it must fall upon me to learn more about wherever it is he is from, to perhaps better understand what their etiquette is so that maybe I can explain it to him better next time.

And fortunately, he was finally interrupted by Professor Grundal, who arrived late and proceeded to throw a far more effective fit than I could have. He complained about the soup (which, by the by, was tomato, and delicious), and when dinner was served, hurled his dishes into the fireplace and stormed out of the room! We all ignored it as best we could, for there's little else to do when someone is so far out of decorum, but to me it was a welcome, if insufficient, distraction, at the time. I feel a bit bad about that now, of course, but that's getting ahead of myself.

Naturally, with all of our cards, so to speak, having been laid on the table, both Lady Jane and Clement wished to accompany us to open one of the unidentified doors. They led us through the labrynthine hallways until we found the one they were thinking of, I opened it up, and revealed -- I do hope you are sitting down! -- an empty hall! Lined with, to be entirely fair, portraits, many of which are very nice, but none of which are statuary. The far end of the hallway was also magnetically sealed, but that, indeed, was no longer an obstacle, and beyond it was a lovely solarium that opened to one of the inner courtyards. There seemed to be simply no purpose to having sealed off this hallway.

We had, however, begun to piece together some sense of the layout of the house, and as Cusa's and my eyes met, I believe the same thought occurred to us both. (It is sometimes difficult to tell what he is thinking, though.) There was undoubtedly space in the structure for an identical hall either directly above or below the one we had unlocked, and, if this courtyard were otherwise limited, then sealing this hallway might have been a rather cleverly obfuscatory way of protecting it. Stepping outside, we found that there was, most promisingly, a porch that opened out above the solarium from a doorway that, well, was directly above the one we had just unlocked. We sent for a ladder, and then quickly ascended (menfolk first, naturally!) to see what we might find.

This new door, to my great disconcertion, was held fast by a perfectly ordinary lock, to which my key was naught but a bit of paper. Piper, I was sure, could have had it open with a moment's force, but it was a beautiful door. We considered, very briefly, sending for the butler, but if he had the key, I don't think any of us truly believed he would admit to it. But then Cusa -- it is a difficult thing to describe, in many ways even stranger to me than when he called to poors Mrs. Clarke. He sang in some primitive language, and a part of the railing twisted itself into a spidery... thing. It is quite difficult to describe, and I fear my skills at sketching are entirely unequal to the task. It scuttled in a terribly unappealing way to the door and stuck a tendril, for lack of a better word, into the lock, which twisted and opened, before clicking its way back and turning back into a railing, but in entirely the wrong shape. I'm afraid both the lock and ironwork were ruined, though that turned out to be the least of our troubles.

Our true troubles lay within. We had at last found the hallway we sought! And the statuary was undeniably beautiful. The room was heavily shadowed, but while it has many detriments, the Looking Glass is not without its gifts. I find starlight the most appealing, but whatever the case, I do see quite well in the dark now. (And I must say, for the first few months, it made it most difficult to sleep! Not so much the brightness, but simply that I would often find myself engaged in a book, and not notice that it had become what always used to be too dark to read. It does sometimes make it difficult to tell myself when it is time to stop.) Clement pressed forward, with Cusa and Pepper following cautiously. I remained with Lady Jane, and we ventured only a short distance into the room. I am not quite certain what I feared, but I could feel the hairs at the back of my neck.

Clement went directly to the middle of the hall, wherein lay a large sarcophagus - almost absurdly large, to be perfectly frank. I didn't quite see what he did, but it seemed as though perhaps he squeezed out some of his blood into it! And then the Troll sat up. I do swear to you, Charles, it was one of the largest Trolls I have ever seen. It was also quite clearly -- oh, how do I put this? Deceased. Mummified, I suppose, though likely not in the proper sense. It was not so much rotted, but had a decidedly desiccated look about it, and an unnatural pallor. And yet it sat up of its own volition, and climbed out of its box, and spoke. Although not in any language I could recognize. I could not even begin to place the accent, though it did feel nigglingly familiar. As Clement and the Troll began to converse in this tongue, the I somewhat belatedly noticed the body of Professor Grundle near them, hanged by the neck from a nearby statue. As morbid as it is, I must confess that in comparison to what else we were witnessing, it was almost an afterthought, though I certainly wondered how he had gotten here, of all places, to die.

I cannot really pretend to any great surprise at Clement's place in things. While it is not unheard of to call upon a relative in their time of need, he had the air of a scavenger about him. He was, I would say, perhaps 70% of why I had not wished to speak of our progress at the dinner table, with concerns about the staff being the remainder. But I had presumed he was simply hoping to take advantage of Lady Jane at this vulnerable stage - I did not anticipate ancient blood magics, nor necromantic rites. Fortunately, it was clear from the beginning, even by only the tone of their conversation, that the Troll was not under his control. He was attempting to negotiate, and it did not sound to be going very well. I'm not certain what the other two were doing; while the darkness was not a great issue, the sheer clutter of the room was. For myself, though, I drew my gun from my purse and fired at Clement, for he had proven himself an enemy to all that is natural.

And there - I tell you this in strictest confidence, Charles - is when Lady Jane stabbed me, which I freely confess I did not see coming. She had always been so very proper and pleasant, and this was neither! Even if she did apologize as she did it. She left a deep cut across my arm, but I do not believe she was actually trying to kill me herself. I called out that she was not to be trusted, and fled, hoping to lose myself amidst the statuary. And for a short time, at least, I succeeded in this.

When I found a new position and peered across the room to the chaos at the center, what I saw was simply beyond description. The statue of a shepherd girl was attacking Clement, the corpse of the Professor was struggling against the rope around its neck, and only the posthumous Troll seemed to have retained any degree of decorum. It seemed deeply unimpressed with Clement, who by this time seemed to be more gasping like a fish out of water than continuing his side of the conversation! In retrospect, there was likely some cause to this, but at the time I was only a bit relieved; although he had always been polite enough, somehow in this other language they were speaking he soudned irritatingly whiny. You know I can't abide a whiner. But then the Troll did something - the words it used were different, somehow, and it moved its hands in a way that seemed more akin to a stage magician, and then appeared the most horrific thing I have ever witnessed in my life!

...And indeed, I do say this in the midst of witnessing the walking corpse of an impossibly long-dead Troll. In the ceiling above Clement, something emerged; just a mouth, really, and tentacles, and I simply can't. I don't want to picture it again, though sometimes when I dream I still see it. It simply reached down and pulled poor Clement into itself, and though there was no throat or anything of the sort, he was entirely subsumed therein. I may well have been prepared to shoot him a moment ago, but I am still not convinced that he deserved that, although it must be acknowleded that he quite literally brought the abomination upon himself. Perhaps in a somewhat... less graphic way, I can incorporate the effect into my project, though; it certainly would have an impact.

I then heard Lady Jane herself making her way further into the room, addressing the Troll herself. And I fear I was overwhelmed. Lady Jane is, with or without language, quite compelling. If she was, as they say in the periodicals, "in cahoots" with Clement all along, and this Troll was as deadly an atrocity as it had just proven itself to be, we simply could not allow her to sway it to her cause! I fired at her, Charles, from the shadows, to my eternal shame and yet, I still do believe, for the good of all that is proper. I'm not certain if I hit her or not, but I will not pretend I did not intend to. But that is the last I recall, until I awoke several hours later, abed, being cared for by Cusa, and with such a headache as I have never endured. I'm told that her maid, Miss Brown, must have hit me, for she was seen weilding a cudgel, but I really couldn't say. Lady Jane, it transpired, was dead, but not by my hand - the reanimated corpse of the departed Professor did the deed. And as for the Troll... they tell me it simply left, after transforming into some sort of insectile worm-like creature that, although I was blessedly unconscious at the time, I also do see in my dreams.

Cusa and I had the opportunity to ferret away a few of Clement's notes, but they are both encyphered and polylingual. I should dearly like to read them, someday, or even simply to be able to! I have recognized English and French, naturally, and Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, as one might expect from a practitioner of occult arts. But there is another that I simply cannot place, by which I am inordinately fascinated. The nature of the Troll itself is likewise a fascinating puzzle. Cusa is convinced it must be Samsut, but I am doubtful. From the little I know of them, the Samsut zombies are not, and cannot be, intelligent, and the magic it used was well beyond anything I have heard tell of. I suspect that the corpse simply went through the Looking Class. Admittedly, it feels a bit silly to say it, but even speaking as someone who has endured it, I know almost nothing of Looking Glass Fever. It doesn't really follow the patterns of any natural disease. Might our dead be changing in their graves? The one thing I know for certain is that no one has checked, and I certainly have no intention of it!

But even my theory has a significant hole, for it does nothing to explain the size of the sarcophagus. If he was buried a man, why was he housed in a Troll-sized container? With the right circumstances, I do know that a dried corpse can be preserved almost indefinitely... do you suppose it's possible that he was in fact buried a Troll? Of course you don't - the very idea is preposterous on the face of it. But I have always been given to such fanciful notions, and I suppose one benefit of femininity is that it's rather more permissable than it might be for one in your position to entertain them. I do rather like the idea, as you might imagine. Perhaps this is not the first time our world has been touched by magic. Someday, perhaps I shall venture away from my beloved machines and study it myself.

Well, enough of that. I trust you will burn this, for it contains details that should never go further. I'm afraid my poor head has still not fully recovered, and I'm still finding it difficult to concentrate for long periods. But Faraday has seen to my medical care, and they assure me I am recovering well, thanks to Cusa's prompt and skilled care. (They did not precisely say that, admittedly; I think the doctors are a little put off that his methods worked so well, as he has, to my knowledge, no formal medical schooling. But I am grateful for it.)

Wishing you well,

PS -- Oh, if you are free next Tuesday luncheon, Father would love an opportunity to meet. He has a venture he thinks you may be interested in. Apologies for being so crass; I had to promise him I would mention it. But there will be baked eel pies.

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Re: Cracking Bank Hall - Character Journals [Spoilers]

Post by Andrew1879 » Wed Jun 05, 2019 1:58 pm

Quite well written, indeed, captures the style of the period very well. Nice reference to the Y2K bug, amusing that. Having a couple of different characters' viewpoints of the same events has been good - each has focused on a different set of details, picked out points that seemed important to them, and filled in gaps here and there to create a sort of holographic approach. Of course, this is why the police interview all the witnesses to a crime... and there's the undead Nethermancer running around loose for a follow-up adventure. Oh my.

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