Chapter 17: Imtarumbar

 

As the conversation dwindled and everyone seemed lost in thought Fred began to fidget and rub his hands. After a little while he announced, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I would prefer to take this little conversation somewhere else. There's a maggot ridden head in the bucket over there, and the smell of it is enough to make ME lose my appetite."
Fred looked around, waiting for a reaction and then proceeded on. "I
would suggest either going back to where the Ironman is and formally introducing ourselves and explaining the situation to Clarissa, Kir-a-han, and, uh..." he looks at Takenya with an enquiring look, "Takenya. Or we should try exploring the Feasting Hall which we looked in briefly but did not explore. That way we will have 'cleared' a section. But getting to 'safety' before dark should be a priority, and it is starting to get late."
In an effort to move people in that general direction Fred started to
move toward the door. Clarissa examined the party. She knew that they were to be adventuring together, and would be placing each of their lives in one another's hands, much like the soldiers she had watched train from her home.
"There are unlimited possibilities" she stated, still slowly comprehending the magnitude of it. She watched Fred start for the door, considering his suggestion. It seemed he was making the decision for the party, since indecision was sweeping the others, and to her dislike, herself. She quickly wandered over to the bucket, drawn by some macabre emotion, and looked at the head. She steeled herself, but she had seen worse. She thought to herself, how did this happen, and when? She mentally prepared for danger.
Taurvantar shook himself out of his reverie at the sound of Fred's words. He was wiry, though not excessively so, and tall (almost two meters), although not as tall as Daern. His piercing grey eyes, fair skin, and harmonious blend of Mannish and Elvish features gave him a noble cast which inspired confidence. He spoke to the newcomers.
"To you three I would say 'welcome' but for two reasons. First, I am but an uninvited guest in this place, as are we all, and from what we've found about our hosts I feel secure in saying they would not welcome you were they addressing you; and second, for your sakes I would rather you weren't here.
That said, however, you _are_ here, and so I will content myself and hopefully you with a simple 'well met'. I am Taurvantar, once of Mithlond, and my comrades you see are Daern Longstaff, whose origins I know not, and Fred Underhill, obviously of the Shire. We have recently banded together and come here in response to a massacre of some nearby folk. We have found that this house is the dwelling place of a great evil. The family which dwelt here is that of im-Tar Koranthur, a Numenorean, and his sister and wife im-Tar Almarion. The girl in blue who led you here was their daughter Ellenya, who was an unwilling participant in the incestuous propagation of their aristocratic line. I believe it is her wish that her spirit and the many darker ones which now inhabit this house be put to a final rest. We have encountered the fell spirit of Koranthur, who is a shining example of the arrogance which destroyed Numenor, but did not face him as he and his retinue were strongly armed.
What we have discovered is that this house, seemingly pervaded by the spirit of Almarion feeds on blood and preferably the blood of innocents. The lady recruits orcs and goblins to go through the mirror and kidnap victims, and those who are lured here and killed do not rest, but reawaken as undead servants of evil. There are powerful magics here, such as this mirror and a pool of clairvoyance, which are fueled by the same blood craved by the very stones of the house. Being outnumbered by both living and non-living foes and outclassed in strength, but believing we had no easy way out of here, we had resolved to seek within the mansion for the means to undo the power holding sway over it.
Now that we have a clear way out, the choice before us is more of a choice.Do we stay and fight on against difficult odds, knowing our former comrades will no doubt tell Lord Tarma of this place and he will probably send a force against it, but not knowing how many more will be lured to their deaths before that force arrives? Or do we trust that stronger arms and wiser minds than ours are better suited to handle this and use the mirror to move onward until this is just a nagging memory, knowing that someday when we are stronger and wiser we will return to be sure that the true end has come to this ill-starred family? I would not ask you newcomers to share this peril with us if we stay, and in fact I am of a mind to go, but only if no answers to this horror can be found in the one place we have reason to believe holds them: the schoolroom. So, in short, I think we should find the schoolroom, search for major weapons there, and leave with the knowledge we have gained if none are to be found, and stay and use them if we find them and think them strong enough. We should be somewhat safe for a couple more hours.
Besides," he concludes, grinning at his diminutive friend Fred, "if this place is not dangerous enough to chase a Hobbit back to his warm fireside, how can proud children of Iluvatar such as we turn tail without at least a satisfactory look around? If you three would leave, I ask you to remain with us a little longer and we will all go together to wherever you wish."
Standing a finger's breadth over seven feet, Kirahan was tall and broad even for one of his race. He moved with a casual grace that belied his great size, coolly observing everything with an icy blue gaze. Young and beardless, his black hair was tied back into a thick braid that fell well below his shoulders. Dressed in clothes of plain cut and cloth, there was little about him that attracted attention. A heavy grey cloak covered all, save the hilt of a sword that he tended to grasp tightly.
"The schoolroom, then," he replied, nodding to Taurvantar. "I
will remain with you until the sun begins to set, but then I must
leave." He began to look around once more, a strange look crossing his angular features. "This place," he says, glancing at the empty bucket, "grates on my nerves."
"Oh, it hasn't even begun to do that yet," Fred assured him. "Just wait for nightfall."
"No, thank you, my little friend," Kirahan replied. "As I've said, we've the means at hand to leave this place and I intend to avail myself of it."
"Don't you think we could better discuss this elsewhere," Fred reminded everyone in a nasal voice, while pinching his nose shut.
"Hold on Fred," Taurvantar spoke up. "Let us make our way back to the room with the pool and use that to show us the way to the schoolroom, just as it did with the mirror."
"Alright then," Clarissa chimed in. "Let us go back to the room that holds the seeing water, as friend Taurvantar has suggested."
For the time being, with an action decided upon, all present were content to allow themselves to be led back to the room with the pool.
Once there, again one of the party, this time Daern, allowed their blood to be offered as a sacrifice to the power of the house. And once again, having offered the blood, the pool burst forth in cold radiance.
"Show us the way to the schoolroom," Daern commanded.
The rippling waters darkened once more and the party was treated to a tour of halls which they themselves had walked. First came the twisted passage, past the strange laboratory where the mirror was kept. Then out through the secret doors hidden in the large wooden keg, up the sloping floor of the storage room where dead pieces of corpses twisted in strange agony, into the narrower hallway that skirted the servants' area and finally out into the cobblestone courtyard, and across to a door nearly opposite. There, in a quiet web filled room lay still wooden benches and tables while on the wall, a thick slab of dark slate was mounted, framed in a dark hardwood.
"Well, Ranciryon sighed, "Our way lies out into the snowy courtyard, past Koranthur."
"Not necessarily," Taurvantar countered, "for look, the tour continues."
And indeed it did. "Leaving the room through one of the three doors, the vision passed into another hallway, richly carpeted with walls dressed in grand paintings. Several unlit candles lay quiet, their tallow ensnared by more cobwebs. The vision passed by these, offering a view from the vantage of one who might walk this passage, whose dust lay undisturbed for centuries. Walking this passage, the vision turned left and passed through a door into a large room filled with musical instruments, all laying quiet and dormant. Statues and dead plants in marble urns were placed in a manner suggesting taste and wealth but the vision passed quickly through this room and into another large hall, this one with a frozen river running through it, channeled in a marble and serpentine conduit. Statues, once beautiful, now all marred by violence could be glimpsed and the vision passed through a pair of doors and once again entered a corridor that turned again into the storage area and then back through the twisted course into the room where the party now stood.
"So, we don't have to cross this courtyard you fear," Takenya said. "There is this other way, through the music room and ultimately to this school room which you speak of."
Fred, feeling tired and weary, sat down. Mopping his brow, he said, "You know, there's something about this room which taxes me somehow. I noticed it before, but it seems to only occur when we watch the pool."
"I noticed nothing," Ranciryon said. "I think you are over tired, my friend. Perhaps it would do you good to rest."
"Ay, that would be very good," Fred nodded. "To rest. I would like that."
Taurvantar scowled. "Perhaps Fred is right. Perhaps we should leave here soon. I've grown to trust both my own instinct and that of others where this house is concerned. But, before we go, I do have one more question."
"Speak the question, Taurvantar," Kirahan nodded. "But your waters here, they have a price."
Taurvantar rolled up his sleeve but Clarissa waved him away.
"No, Taurvantar. Let me." Before anyone could say anything, she had slipped out her dagger and let some of her own blood fall.
"Thank you," Taurvantar nodded. "Waters, tell me if there is a way to defeat Almarion and Koranthur."
Fred whistled. "Well, that's a tall order."
"It doesn't hurt to ask," Clarissa stated.
The radiance of the waters at once went dark, but no vision appeared to illuminate the party. Still, Fred complained of weariness.
"I feel rather ill as well," Daern voiced. Taurvantar and Ranciryon also felt it now, though none of the newcomers seemed more tired than usual.
"Let us think now about leaving this place," Takenya advised.
"Agreed," Taurvantar nodded. "But to where? Do we explore the schoolroom, or do we use more blood and venture from this place through the mirrour?"
"I say the latter," voiced Kirahan. "But if you wish to explore only a little further, I will lend you aid. But the day was already waning when we came to this place. I do not know how long we've been here but darkness cannot be far off."
"If we do go through the mirrour, where do we travel to?" Clarissa asked. "It seems that there is a mystery here that needs solving."
"And I know that one of the rooms not far from here holds an assembly of undead, including some that appeared to be knights," Ranciryon informed them. "I found them earlier on my way back to all of you."
Daern, rubbing the blond stubble on his chin, added, "If that is so, then we can't be sure of making it safely back here by nightfall, if darkness is indeed close, which we cannot know down here under the mansion."
"There's always the hall where the Ironman could guard us," Fred surmised.
All at once, all voices fell to discussing the merits of this plan or that, all the while as time was passing.

(Daern, Fred, Ranciryon and Taurvantar each loose 3 temp. Con. Clarissa, Kirahan and Takenya each loose 2 temp. Con.)
(Clarissa, Daern, Ranciryon and Taurvantar each loose 1 concussion hit due to bloodletting.)

Finally, it was decided to venture out and try for the schoolroom. Assembling in no set fashion, the party wandered directly through the twisting passage. Ranciryon pointed out the door through which he claimed several score undead sat as if in worship of a strange stone that illuminated a purple light. No one seemed to want to explore in that direction so they travelled on, through the door that led into the cask and then, pushing down what looked like a ladder built into the cask's side, they descended down this short stairway into the bitter cold air of the storage room. Indeed, the animated bits of corpses seemed more active, perhaps as darkness was approaching. Walking up the slope, the party entered the hallway that formed the boundary between servants' areas and the main house. They walked toward the courtyard but turned to enter the broad atrium hall, full of dead plants and broken statues. Clarissa, once in the lead, paused to examine a once lovely marble of a water maia, whose white nakedness had been rudely scrapped and torn, probably by orcs. As she paused, Taurvantar stepped into the lead of the party and in such fashion, those who led followed, and those who followed found themselves in the lead. Only Fred maintained his position, always to the rear.
They passed by the room where the hobbit and Taurvantar had had a narrow encounter with what had been left of Mendakhor, faithful steward, even in death, to the imTars. Using their memories as guides, they entered through the first ornate single door to their right. Up ahead, they could espy the entrances on the other side to the Great Dining Hall, where their dead companion, Eoras, lay, his corpse burnt and unshrouded.
As they entered this new room, all in the party gasped with amazement. Above, lit through a glass roof, the now clear sky could be seen to be darkening, its course touched with rosy hues as if the sky itself was beginning to burn with fire. All about the room lay instruments, large stringed harps, lyre whose golden wood was touched with gem dust, reeds and flutes and deep lacquered fiddles and stringed contrivances. There was even a box which, when looked into, could be seen to have many strings stretched across it's insides. These strings were made of silvery and bronze coloured metals and when plucked, they emitted the warmest of sounds.
"Ow!" Daern sucked his finger after plucking one such string, "It's sharp."
Ranciryon cursed it. "Like everything in this house, it demands blood to work"
Fred spent some time blowing air through one of several reed flutes. Despite his lack of talent, warm notes still managed to pour out of the instrument, though all he could produce was a sweet sounding discord.
Clarissa, touching one of the harps, cried out so that all turned to watch her. No one had to ask her what had surprised her. Of its own volition, the strings of the instrument began to vibrate. A sweet melody, sad and romantic and perhaps unheard in the world for a thousand years, began to play.
"It sounds Elven," Taurvantar remarked.
"No," Clarissa corrected him. "It's a Numenorean folk ballad about a girl whose love has been lost to the sea. But you're correct in that it sounds Elven. The elves taught my people much and nothing that is good is entirely untouched by their gifts to us."
"Ay," Ranciryon nodded, a smile coming to his face, "I recognize this song. The ending is where the boy is found alive at sea, and when he comes home, he and the lass are married."
Fred, finding a flute, tried his luck at it. He was pleasantly surprised to find that he could perform a passable tune with it, though it at once struck him that he had never had any musical talent. All at once, everyone hearing his tune, in harmony to the harp's music, at once began to dance.
Fred, seeing their gaiety, the first he had seen in many days, tapped his foot while he played.
"Fred! Friend Fred!" Kirahan called out to him. But it was no pleasantry, for the tall man merely asked, "Would be you stop playing please?"
The urgency in his voice disturbed Fred's move, so he obliged. At once, everyone stopped dancing.
"There is a strange magic in many of these instruments," Takenya noted. She scanned the walls for something of her liking.
Kirahan, looking up, noted, "There cannot be but little more than half an hour's daylight left. Do we continue, or do we return?"
Fred, looking up, suggested, "I say let us make for the Hall of Arms. There, at least we will have the protection of the Ironman and Englorion's runes."
Kirahan retorted by saying, "And I say we should make at once for the mirrour. With Oromë's blessing, we should be able to reach the mirrour before any evil rouses in this cursed place."
Again, the discussion resumed.


x.p. award: Clarissa - 250, Daern - 250, Fred - 350, Kirahan, 250, Taurvantar - 250

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