I am 30 years old and we are travelling by stagecoach to the Falsingham Estate.
We are summoned by the dowager baroness Henrietta Bosby-Falsingham to help her 16 year old granddaughter, who seems to be possessed or haunted or something. There is something wrong with her, something supernatural, so we come. We are: me and Cassie, Vincent, Mackenzie and her brother Niall.
We arrive in Bosby in the rain. The dowager baroness has sent her wagon to pick us up, but it is a tight fit. Vincent goes to sit with the driver, and Niall stands up inside the carriage for the duration of the trip.
I am wet and uncomfortable. I look out of the window and all I see is a wet and dark and bleak landscape. It is nightfall, but everything seems even gloomier than it ought. Something is definately wrong here. I look at Cassie and she too is frowning at the landscape. She feels it too, I am sure.
We arrive at Falsingham – a three winged estate three stories high. I see a fountain in the driveway, but it is turned off and is overgrown with moss. It looks almost furry and for a second I see it as a big hairy animal ready to pounce. I whine softly, until I feel Cassies hand on my arm. She smiles at me and shakes her head. It is only an overgrown fountain.
The house looks a bit in disrepair. We run for shelter, and a maid lets us in the house. The house too is dark and gloomy. There is an Artemis statue and I go to pay homage. Family portraits hang on the wall. The oldest one is in plate armor, the newest one is a scary old lady, who looks a bit menacing. The maid tells us that the dowager baroness has already retired for the night, but if we find our rooms and freshen up, she will tell the dowager baroness that we are here. She apologizes that they are a bit understaffed, and the house does indeed feel rarther empty. She offers state rooms to Cassie, Mackenzie and Niall and servants’ quarters to me and Vincent. It makes me uncomfortable. I say that Vincent and I will share. I don’t like sleeping alone in a new place, especially not and old house like this. I would much rather like to sleep with Cassie like we are used too, when we are on a mission. Cassie comes over to me and put her arm around me. ‘Grace will share my room’ she says to the maid ‘She can help me dress’ she explains to the bewildered maid. I relax. I like it when things are as per usual. I share with Vincent at home and with Cassie on the road. That is how it is supposed to be like.
We change into dry clothes and we are shown into the room where the dowager baroness is. The dowager baroness greet us. I startle a little. She looks exactly like the newest portrait in the hall: She is old and strict and a bit scary. She also seems a bit confused like som old people do. She tells us the story, some of which we already know from her letter to the Society: her granddaughter, Caroline Mathilde, is posessed or haunted by something. She gets hysteric and angry (which sound like some other young people I know), but she also hallucinates and has terrible nightmares. Spots of some sort grow on her walls, and when she changes rooms, they do too. The baron, her father, allegedly disappeared in the colonies some years ago and he is presumed dead. So Caroline is now the heiress to the Bosby-Falsingham title and estate. The only other family member is the family doctor, who is only a distant relation, but still a relation none the less. Carolines plight began four years ago – as I understand it around the same time her father disappeared. The Bosby-Falsinghams is an ancient family that seems in danger of dying out, as it is now
The family has tried to hide their predicament, but the dowager baroness is getting on, and the pills that the doctor gives the girl, does not seem to make her better. The dowager baroness tells us that they have locked the girl up, and I get very upset. No one should get locked up just because they are troubled. She must be helped! Niall says that locking her up is a good idea, and I get very angry with him, until Cassie quietly tells me that he doesn’t mean it. He was just being sar-cas-tic. I wish he would just say what he means. But I am happy that we are in agreement.
We agree to talk to the staff tomorrow, when it is day, so we retire. A bed had been made for me on the floor, but I sleep in the big bed with Cassie. I can sleep on the floor – I have done that many times before – but it is better to sleep in a bed. And better to sleep besides Cassie.
In the early hours we wake by the sound of a scream. We tumble out of bed and into the hallway. We try the girl’s door, but it is locked. Cassie knocks on the door with a flat hand, and the maid (Susan) opens, but will not let us in. Cassie says ‘I’m a doctor’, and Susan lets Cassie in. We stand in the doorway, but Susan blocks the view for us. Cassie asks her to get something, and Susan runs off. Cassie says we can come in, so we enter the room and start investigating. The girl, Caroline Mathilda, is in hysterics. She screams and writhes and it is very unpleasant to watch. I reach out to feel if it might be magic that troubles her, and I gasp. I feel the entire room engulfed in chaotic magic. The darkness closes in, the darkness! It is chaos in my mind! It is unlike any magic I have felt before. It is pounding in my ears! I feel Vincent’s arms around me and hear his voice in my ear. He whispers calming words and I breathe again. The darkness seems to creep into the corners of the room again, but I know they are there. The chaos tingles on my skin, but I can breathe and I can see. Cassie tends to Caroline Mathilda, and Vincent and Niall and MacKenzie looks the room over. Vincent finds a black mark on the wall. It is not mold – it looks burnt, but does not smell burnt. We leave before Susan returns, and wait in the hallway. We wait the rest of the night. I shudder. It is cold in the nightgown. Vincent offers me a blanket, and I see that he has dressed. So have the others. I just shiver in my nightgown. Well, not so much now I have the blanket.
When Cassie finally comes out, we go and dress, and go down for breakfast. We eat in the kitchen, and talk to the cook. Her name is Molly. She is not fat like many cooks I’ve met. She looks fit and is quick to lash out with her ladle, if the kitchen boy or the shepherd tries to take food. She also gossips and tells us of the others in the house. She says of Caroline Mathilda that she has always had an impressionable mind. She used to read a lot, Caroline Mathilda did. Romances and books with soft cover and the kind that comes in parts once a month in a magazine. The Falsingham Estate is in financial trouble. The dowager baroness does not lead it well. The young doctor that sees to Caroline Mathilda is on the other hand very capable, she says, and pleasant and friendly. I think she likes him. The breakfast is alright. It doesn’t taste like much – but not many things do, in my experience. Niall complains about the food. He thinks it isn’t any good. The cook gets angry and we leave. I ate all my gruel. Food should not be wasted.
We talk to Peter, the kitchen boy, in Niall’s room. The boy is small, about 8 to 10 years old. I don’t think he eats enough. But he seems very talkative. I think he hears a lot more conversations than he should have. He heard everything we talked about in the kitchen. He says that the dowager baroness and Caroline Mathilda used to argue a lot about going to the temple. The dowager baroness wanted to go all the time, but Caroline Mathilda didn’t want to. They offer prayers mainly to Artemis, whom I like the best too. Caroline Mathilda didn’t mind going to the temple, when her father was still around. She was very nice and sweet, when she was younger. He talks and talks. I don’t think it is prober to talk quite so much about the family you work for. Has he not heard of loyalty and discretion? Though it helps us, off course, to figure things out, but I don’t think it is prober!
Next we talk to Susan, the maid. She is too old to be a maid, really. She seems insecure and fidgety, but Cassie knows how to talk to her. She tries to talk Susan into letting Caroline Mathilda out into the garden to get some fresh air. What we really want is to get her out of the room, so we can take a closer look at it. Susan is difficult to convince that it is a good idea, and I’m afraid I don’t help, when I blurt out, that Caroline Mathilda might get hayfever, if she is taken out. Cassie gives me the ‘do be quiet’ look, and I become quiet. Once I do that Susan begins to talk even more than Peter did: she says that the dowager baroness didn’t handle it very well, when she told Caroline Mathilda that her father had died. Caroline Mathilda got very upset, almost hysteric and the doctor was called. Caroline Mathilda did not get medicine to begin with, but later she did. The dowager baroness got more and more religious after that. She tossed out the ancestor gods and devoted herself wholly to Artemis. Susan says something about the family curse, but will say nothing more about it. I think that throwing out the family gods was probably not a good idea, if there is a curse on the family already. Susan tells us, before we leave her, that the black spot on the wall sometimes fade, but it always comes back again.
Then we approach Frank, or Francois as his name really is. He is gamekeeper on the estate and is originally from Valois. He came here after the war. My foster-Papa always said not to trust a valoirian. And this one does indeed seem a little dodgy. Though I am loathe to believe anything foster-Papa ever said, considering. Niall knows just how to talk to a hunter like him, though. They talk about weapons and I get bored. Finally Niall starts asking him about the family curse. He, Frank, has been here a long time and he knows all about the family curse, apparently. He says that many years ago a baron of Falsingham made a pact with dark forces. He destroyed a temple and built the foundation of his castle with the stones and swore to worship the old gods. Many barons and baronesses of Falsingham have since died in accidents and other unnatural ways. It is not the present castle, but a ruined one that was built with the desecrated stones. It burnt down because of a peasant uprising and the baron died miserably.
After him we talk to the gartner, Mormont. He says it is all rubbish about the cursed stones. There was a castle built in 1214 and it did burn down, about four generations ago, but not because of any peasants. They then built the new house that we have slept in. He wants to make something decorative with the ruined castle, which is not much more than a tower and a staircase, but the dowager baroness won’t let him. He says he has too much work for one man, but she won’t hire help for him. He did confirm that quite a few barons and baronesses had died of accidents, but as he said ‘don’t many of us do that?’ I suppose so.
The last servant to talk to was Tony. He was a bit scary. He is my age, but is half my age in mind. Apparently he was once kicked in the head as a boy and he is a bit feebleminded now. He reminded me of people from the asylum and I didn’t like that. But we spoke to him anyway. And good that we did, for he told us something very interesting! The doctor has given him ladies underwear, which he apparently likes a lot (that was not the interesting part, well, yes, a little, I guess). He got it in return for fetching a particular piece of paper in the library for the doctor and putting it back again (that was the interesting part!). It was a piece of paper with a lot of flourish writing and a seal. It sounds very official and important-like. It is back in the library again, and we decide we need to see what it is (probably a will or something like that).
Back at the castle Caroline Mathilde is indeed out in the open. Cassie looks her over, checks her pulse and all the other doctor things she does. Cassie tells us afterwards that it is like Caroline Mathilde is full of layers. She is apathic and then suddenly very angry. There is deep down a layer of consciousness – one which is very exhausted. There is also a faint layer of magic in her – bad magic. Her physical body is healthy enough, though the opium in her medicine is not doing her any good. Cassie decides that Caroline Mathilde must stop taking the medicine and that she should get a look of fresh air instead.
We leave Caroline Mathilde with Susan in the garden and go to investigate her room. It is dark and dusty. Dust on the curtains show that they have not been draws for quite a long time. We let in the light and the air. The curtains around her bed are heavy and thickly layered. I wonder how she is able to breathe in such a closed environment and I wonder whether that is why she feels she can’t breathe and like someone is sitting on her chest: basic lack of oxygen? Under the bed MacKenzie finds a strange piece of paper. It has ancient runes and a strange drawing on it that makes me feel funny in an unpleasant way. I accidently burn a bit of the drawing when I hold it close to a flame to read it. I manage to beat out the flames before the entire piece of paper burns to a crisp. Oops… We must investigate the runes further, though, they seem important. Fortunately MacKenzie is an excellent artist and she recreates the drawing. Cassie says the runes are Valar – they are connected to very old magic of the bad sort. Then Cassie finds a vent in the wall and Niall finds a hidden exit behind the almost empty bookcase! The vent smells like bitter almonds – some sort of poison, Cassie says – and there seems to be a hole into a passageway on the other side of the wall. It’s the same wall as the bookcase is on, so we open the bookcase – it creaks – and finds a handle on the other side as well. MacKenzie sees fresh footprints in the dust in the passageway on the other side of the bookcase: small feet from a boy or a woman. There are two vents in the passageway: one to Caroline Mathilde’s room (recognized by the ribbon Cassie tied to it) and another into the dowager baroness’ room. Vincent finds another door at the other end of the passageway. Now it sound like it is a massive passageway with lots of room. That is not the case. It is perhaps three feet across – we pass each other with difficulty. And it is about 8-10 metric measurements long. That’s it. We check out the other door and hear voices behind it. We wait until the voices are gone again and we try to open the door. MacKenzie and I use all our strength and it finally springs open. Some clothes were stuck in the door. We come out in a wardrobe in the servants’ hallway. There is access to both Caroline Mathilde’s room and the dowager baroness’ room. Now that the stuck clothes is removed the door is actually quite easy to open discreetly. So access to Caroline Mathilde’s room is actually quite easy to get. Someone has used the hidden passageway to put poison of some gaseous sort into Caroline Mathilde’s room, or more likely into the closed environment of her bed.
Next we want to check out the library. The door is locked, but easily jimmied open by Vincent. It is both library and office of the dowager baroness’. Everything is prober and clean in here. Everything is in its place. I find the book where the page with runes comes from. I wish I could read it. Just as Cassie exclaims that she has found a hidden room (also locked), we see Mormont, the gardener, work on the rosebushes right outside the window. I go to distract him. It becomes a very awkward conversation and I am quite uncomfortable with it. Finally I see Cassie give me the thumbs up sign from the window, and I practically flee the scene. They found the piece of paper, and it was as anticipated: a will. It was the dowager baroness’ will, written four years ago, just after her son died, and just before Caroline Mathilde fell ill. It said that Caroline Mathilde is to inherit everything: the estate, the lands, the house, the title. And on page two it said that in the event of the dowager baroness’ death before Caroline Mathilde became of age and able to manage her own affairs, the good doctor should be her ward. Interestingly enough that would mean that even if Caroline Mathilde should become of age, but not able to manage her own affairs, the doctor would gain control of everything! Very suspicious!
Later we go and investigate the ruin. In hindsight it might have been silly of us to go look at it in the dark, but we all felt at that time that we had to work fast. The ruin is standing surrounded by tress and shrubberies and general wilderness. A staircase up into the ruined tower is pretty much all it is. I feel the same chaotic, evil power that I felt in Caroline Mathildes room.
It is very old magic. This time I am determined not to let it cower me, but it IS frightening! Vincent climbs the stairs to get an overlook of the place. From above the ruined complex looks very much like the drawing we found on the page with the runes.
Niall finds tracks of an enormous ox of some kind leading here. I worry about Vincent on the ruined staircase. I’m afraid it will crash and he will fall. Right then I hear a crash behind me, and Niall falls into a hole in the ground! MacKenzie jumps in after him, but land badly and they are both hurt. Vincent jumps down from the ruined stairs, but he too seems to fall through the ground and into the underground. A groan of pain comes from him too. Cassie and I run to the edge and Cassie lights it up with her lamp. There is a gigantic beast of some kind in the hole with our friends and it looks very angry. I jump down on is to hit it, but it disappear. The beast appears again: it is a massive ox with huge horns and it slashes them about in the hole. A moment of clarity finds me: this ancient chaotic magic must be titan magic. Before the good order of our gods took power, the titans ruled the world with their chaotic magic. The order of the gods may destroy the chaos. I start praying to Artemis, to Zeus, to Athena and Hera and Hefaistos. I implore them to protect us and smite this evil magic. I faintly hear Cassie cry out in panic from above. I cannot reach her, but call to her to start praying to the gods. The beast seems to shrink and writhe at the sound of my prayers and Niall shoots at it, but misses. Then he cries out ‘Artemis – guide my bullet’ and he hits it right between the eyes. MacKenzie charges it, but it tries to escape and runs her over and then – poof – disappears. The tracks it left looks old and not fresh as it should. The hole we are in has walls of old cut stones of massive size, and MacKenzie points out a picture cut into the stone: that of a giant auroch.
It takes a while before we are all top side again. Cassie is distraught: she had been worried about us, and she had heard noises like some big animal was coming towards the ruins and she was shivering and shaking with fright. I tried to calm her. I should not have left her up here in the dark by herself, and I felt bad for leaving her alone. But I could not have left Niall and MacKenzie and Vincent wounded in the pit either. But I should not have left her: she hates being alone. And I know it. But soon she is busy taking care of the wounds that Niall and the others had gotten. Niall is particularly badly hurt, but he doesn’t make much of a fuss about it. Stoicly he leads the way back through the dark forest to the castle. He seems able to see in the dark, for he walks without much effort to avoid trees and shrubbery, while MacKenzie beats every tree she walks into. Cassie and I half carry Vincent, who is injured. It is a little difficult walking three wide in a dark forest on a path only meant for one at a time, and I end up carrying him alone, while Cassie is fussing over us.
Back in the kitchen Cassie finally gets to tend to Vincent’s wounds, and see to Niall too, who has quite an impressive abrasion down his right arm. I am no good with blood and cleaning wounds, so I make tea for us all. That I CAN do! While tending to our cuts and bruises and drinking our much deserved tea we make a plan for the night: We must get Caroline Mathilda out of her room, and put someone else in her place. That someone somehow becomes me, as I look most like Caroline Mathilda. Cassie will look after Caroline Mathilda in our room accompanied by Vincent, while MacKenzie will be on lookout in the secret passageway. Niall will have all of our backs by lurking in the hallways, so he can warn us, should something to amiss. He also arrange for us to get Susan out of the room, so we can the Caroline Mathilde out.
While we are all hiding and ready, Niall rings the doorbell, and Susan mutters and goes to let him in. In a hurry Vincent and Cassie carry Caroline Mathilde out, and I take her place in her warm bed behind the stifling bed curtains. Though the bed is comfortable the air is very unpleasant. I feel the curtains close in on me. I am in a dark hole with no air, and I start panting and moaning a bit. I hear MacKenzie whisper soothingly to me through the vent, and then I hear Susan returning, and I have to be quiet. I take deep breaths to calm myself, and it must have worked, for I went to sleep. Or passed out from lack of oxygen. Either or.
I wake up at the sound of fighting in the passageway and I try to get out of the bed. The curtains seem to have fused together for I cannot get out. I panic a little as I fall out of the bed and the curtains seem to wrap themselves around my legs. I can hear slamming doors and running in the hallway. Finally I get free and run out of the door into the hallway. I follow the sound of running feet and meet up with the others. The fleeing person runs into a room and try to exit via the window. Niall runs to the window, while Cassie, MacKenzie and I run down the stairs to catch whoever, when she lands (I says ‘she’ because she was wearing a dress). All at the same time the three of us open the main door to the outside and the fleeing lady runs right into it, and Niall lands badly having jumped from the window. I go to help Niall. He seems to have sprained his foot and his abrasion has started bleeding again. Cassie and MacKenzie catches our culprit who turns out to be, not a lady at all, but Tony in a dress. Cassie comes to help Niall, but Niall waves her off and says ‘Who’s watching over…’ And we point out that MacKenzie has Tony well in hand, but he shakes his head. ‘Caroline Mathilde’. In quite a hurry we all run back to Caroline Mathilde, dragging Tony with us. In Cassie’s room, Caroline Mathilde has flung open the window and she is standing on the window sill, ready to jumb. MacKenzie reaches her first and grabs hold of her. Caroline Mathilde is positively wild. She keeps saying ‘He was here’ ‘The figure! He was here’. All the commotion woke up the dowager baroness and she is rather huffy about it all. She wants to fire Tony for luring on Caroline Mathilde, but we really want to talk to him, before she throws him out of the house. I search his pockets and I find a box with two vials of liquids and a small hand driven fan. There is also room for something small and square in the box, but Tony doesn’t know what it is. He keeps repeating that he has only ‘done what he was supposed to’, but he won’t say who told him to do what. There is nothing magic about the box or its contents – it is all chemistry. We decide to spread the rumor that Tony has revealed all and then we ask for a doctor’s visit. He has gotten Tony to do things for him before and he has a clear and undisputable motive.
Before he comes, though, we look for the missing square thing from the box. Vincent and I look for it in the secrets passageway and I accidently break the vent into Caroline Mathilde’s room. Vincet helps me fix it. Or rather: we hold is approximately in place and then we run before it falls out again. Meanwhile Niall found the thingy: it is a magnet. He found it on the exact opposite side of the wall where the black spot was on Caroline Mathilde’s wall. I don’t know exactly how that worked out, but I bet that now that the magnet is removed, the black spot will also disappear.
Meanwhile Cassie and MacKenzie had gotten Tony to say that it was in fact the doctor who had put him up to it all. Cassie blushed, when we asked how they had gotten him to talk, but MacKenzie just said ‘Our female viles’ while she buttoned up the top button on her dress. I have never yet figured out what viles are and how to use them. Vincent says I do have them, but I’m still a bit confused about them, honestly. MacKenzie on the other hand has them down pat. Maybe I will ask her.
As it was still in the middle of the night, we all went back to sleep, taking turns watching out for Caroline Mathilde and Tony. Caroline Mathilde still woke up with nightmares a couple of times. I had expected her to sleep soundly, but no such luck.
Early in the morning Susan comes to fetch us: The doctor is already here! I must say, his house call came considerably earlier than anticipated! Susan is adamant that we come right away, and is very put off by Niall who says we will come in our own good time (i.a. when we are dressed). Niall do not like to be bossed around, I suspect, certainly not by a maid. Finally we are all ready to go. Susan escorts Caroline Mathilde back to her room, and Cassie insists on coming with her. She will not leave Caroline Mathilde alone. The rest of us go to the dowager baroness’ library/office and gets fired. Just like that. She seems a bit insecure about it, but the doctor is there, smiling smugly, and insists that our help is no longer needed. Niall takes the lead and says that she has every right to disengage us, but that it seems very strange that she wants to dismiss us, just as we have solved the case, and at the behest of the man whom we suspect is guilty of it. The doctor becomes angry, Niall becomes angry, the dowager baroness becomes distressed and it is a bit of mayhem, when Susan comes in with a message from Cassie to the dowager baroness: Caroline Mathilde seems much better, and won’t she come see? The dowager baroness goes to leave, and the doctor makes to follow, but MacKenzie and I block his way. We remind him that he was not called upon, but he still tries to leave. MazKenzie and I moved back and forth in front of him – it is almost like dancing. We are synchronized and he doesn’t stand a chance. We start intimidating him, and tell him that Tony has said it all. That is not strictly true, and we can’t really prove it, but as Niall points out: we are not the police, and we do not need evidence that stand up in court. It would indeed be difficult to lead a case against a well liked, respectable doctor, with only the testimony of a feeble minded shepherd. This seems to blindside him, and he starts saying that Caroline Mathilde was so sick and the dowager baroness to incompetent that it was his duty to act, before the entire estate had been wasted away. It would be so much better if he could just take over. He had only ‘helped matters along a bit’. That is what we call ‘a confession’ and one that would indeed stand up in court. Niall mention that the doctor should tell that tale to the authorities and now the doctor realizes what he has done. He runs. But he does not get far: I fling myself towards him and grab his legs and he falls over. I have caught demons like that and with more effort. Once the doctor is caught he isn’t much of an opponent, honestly. Especially not compared to a demon.
So we have solved part of the problem: the doctor has indeed helped things along, but there is still the question of the titan magic. We go to the ruined castle to see what we can do. It takes stronger powers than hours to cleanse the place, but we can at least paint some signs to ward in the chaos and we try to ruin the carving of the auroch. It can only be temporary, but we will call it in, and better equipped people from the Organisation will come and do it properly.
Back at the house we discover a very curious thing: Caroline Mathilda can read the ancient runes! She has in fact herself opened up to the titan magic by reading the book of runes! She has started it all inadvertently! That just goes to show that one should be careful about what books to read: they are not all good! Cassie adores reading, but even she has to admit that in some cases reading could indeed be bad for you! That Caroline Mathilda had woken the titan magic also meant that Artemis couldn’t protect her against it. So all in all it explained a lot: the dark magic, the attacks, the nightmares and the aversion against going to the temples. I immediately offer to give Caroline Mathilda a tattoo to ward off the titan magic. Surprisingly they won’t let me. I guarantee that it would help, but no! No matter what I say I am not let near Caroline Mathilda again, particularly not with my tattooing kit. I don’t get it.
Instead we send her to Bath to recuperate. Take in the waters, do a bit of sea bathing and hanging around people her own age. Apparently this is what all young girls dream of doing according to Cassie and MacKenzie. They go with her to make sure she does it right.
Vincent and I go to Brighton instead. They also have water you can take (bubbly, hot water – very nice!) and less people. We bathe, relax, walk and talk and have a swell time without having to tackle a single demon. Not even the one in Vincent.
We also recommend the dowager baroness to get herself an administrator, which Niall arrange for her.
A couple of months later we return to Falsingham to reinitiate the castle ruin. Experts from the Organisation take the lead, chant and sacrifice and do their thing, while I paint signs everywhere. Caroline Mathilda’s rune book is confiscated and locked into the restricted area of the Organisation’s library.
Afterwards the rest of us sit in the garden and drink tea and eat biscuits, while Niall and Frank go hunting. Apparently big white oxen has begun to drift into the area. I don’t think they will manage to shoot one however.
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