"We don't want to go back there," Eric said, of the horrible freezer of doom.
So Taegan (mechanic), Caihong (oriental) and Jana (harpy) decided to check for poultergeists upstairs. Caihong took the lead, climbing the rickety staircase and clearing away the masses of spiderwebs with a torch he lit (they'd been using an anbaric lamp, but a torch was better for clearing spiders). The torch was effective against the webs, and aside from a scare where a big cluster of spiders almost dropped on his head (but he dodged) he didn't have much trouble clearing a path to the first door he wanted to open.
It was locked, but Taegan thought he'd be able to manage it -- he had the tools to disassemble the lock and remove it from the door entirely. So he opened the door... and saw a giant spider sitting there, waving its legs at him. So he slammed the door in its face, and the three of them pushed past each other in their race to get back to the main room... Caihong was the slowest, and was engulfed in a swarm of tiny spiders that came from under the door, some getting under his clothes and biting him.
Eric, meanwhile, had been charging up the big Anbaric Spring even before the three had headed upstairs, spooked by some movement he saw on the ceiling (which was just ordinary spiders crawling around in their webs). He used a small burst of power to zap Caihong and the spiders on him, and managed to stun them both -- the little spiders reformed into the giant spider, lying on its back wiggling, at which point Lissar (witch) and Jana smacked it with various weapons and squished it.
So, upstairs was bad too. People harassed Eric until he told them about the bodies in the back room, and they decided that the ghost they were supposed to be hunting was probably back there somewhere. "Actually, a bunch of bugs forming into a giant bug is more of a poultergeist effect," Wren noted, but still, everyone wanted to see the dead bodies.
They were still there, and this time they looked closer, and saw that they were all skinless. Caihong examined them, and guessed that the animal bites all of them had was what killed them, and they were skinned afterwards, but he wasn't sure that it'd happened in that order -- his specialty was acupuncture, not forensics. Eric and Lissar tried to zap them with the big Anbaric Spring anti-spirit weapon thing, but all that did was char the frozen flesh. It smelled delicious, which really creeped Eric in particular out. He curled up into a ball and just sat their huddling while the others examined the freezer further.
Lissar sent her daemon to the far side of the room to check out the door she thought she saw behind all the bodies. She didn't like him going so far away, but it was still in range mostly, so it was just uncomfortable. He came back to report that it was covered in runes. Celtic runes, he specified, when Caihong asked if it was possibly the writing of his people.
Lissar was intrigued, and crawled under all the bodies to get a look herself. The door seemed charged with a sort of energy she sort of recognized -- magic! She traced the runes, and they started to glow, but nothing else happened, and she sensed that she hadn't fully triggered the spell. "Open Sesame!"
That made a couple runes glow -- apparently, when she said a syllable that corresponded to a rune, the rune would glow. Taegan joined her -- well, actually, Jana cleared a path by cutting down the chains hanging the bodies up and piling them all in a corner, and then everyone joined her except for Eric who fled to the courtyard. But Taegan was the one who helped Lissar decipher the language by trying random syllables until they got them all. Once she had a transliteration of the entire spell, she read it and the door opened.
Beyond was a chamber full of candles, which lit themselves as the door opened. In the back of the room was a bloodstained altar and a scary-looking book. Lissar walked over to the book and started reading it, instantly hyponitzed by its power as soon as she opened the cover.
Taegan, however, spotted something odd about the air in the middle of the room, and playing around with the anomoly discovered that it was some sort of doorway floating in midair, separating two identical versions of the same room, except that they were in one of them and the book and altar (and Lissa) were in the other. When he went around behind it to look at it from the other side, Wren (who'd been watching them from a distance, trying not to interfere) suddenly called them back, sounding scared.
By this point, Eric was back -- he'd talked to the bear about the bodies, and the bear had assured him that he had nothing to do with them, and getting a nice bear hug made him feel better. Anyway, he was back and charged through to drag Lissar bodily back into the real world, after which Wren pinched the strange doorway shut, sealing it.
"That was an incursion," he told them, "They're very dangerous to leave open, but I'm not sure I did the right thing in sealing it since the mechanism to open it was probably on the other side. In this world it takes a big machine and a human sacrifice -- I'm sure you read about Lord Asrial in the papers, or your parents did maybe -- but in other worlds it might be a magic spell. And a human sacrifice."
Eric: "Does that mean there's a specter around then?"
Wren: "Yes, but probably not here. They don't manifest right at the incursion."
Jana: "Won't they just open another gateway, making another specter?"
Wren: "Probably, which is why I'm not sure I did the right thing closing it. They're very bad to leave open, though. Hopefully we'll have enough time to get in contact with the Order and ask for advice, though."
The kids wanted to bury the bodies instead of leaving them around, and Wren agreed that it was a practical idea as well as the right thing to do -- some forms of magic would be able to gain power from a bunch of unburied victims like this, and as a priest he was technically qualified to consecrate their burial, severing any such rites.
Even with the bear's help, and all their daemons as badgers or other diggers, it took all night.
By dawn they were exhausted, but Lissar spotted something odd going on in the village -- there was no sign of normal morning activity, but people or things were crawling out of the sea and going into all the houses. She left the others and snuck down into the village to get a closer look, and saw that the things coming out of the sea were seals. She followed one into a hut, and saw the seal crawl into a flayed human skin and seemingly turn into a person, a little doll lying nearby animating as it did this to pose as a daemon.
But the seal-man saw her, and tried to grab her! She was quicker, though, and ran away back towards the party, screaming, "They're not human! They're seals!"
The whole village was soon chasing her, but when the party took up pistol and rifle and giant sword and, um, bear claws, the villagers let her go -- they outnumbered the party four to one, but they weren't really armed, just with clubs and spears and other makeshift weapons. So they'd almost certainly lose several of their own people before they could overwhelm the kids and their guardians.
So they parlayed, mostly Eric and the villager Lissar had seen change. The seals wouldn't confirm whether or not they were from offworld -- they were sort of like this world's Selkies, except that in the legends Selkies shed their own skin to appear human, they didn't need to wear a murdered human's skin. They suggested that the party stay until the master returned, and then they could talk to him and determine whether they were friends or foes... it was pretty obvious that both sides were guessing 'foe', though.
Eric: "Why did you kill all those people?"
Seal: "We needed warm coats to survive in this chilly land!"
Which was embarassingly like justice, considering the normal fate of seals in the north sea.
The bear (who did not, in fact, have a name -- "What do your friends call you, bear?" "So far, 'bear'.") explained that he'd known they were seals, but hadn't explored the castle enough to find the bodies. He'd only been there for a few months, and didn't really like living indoors. The main part of his deal with the seals was that he wouldn't hunt them (seals were his natural prey, and some of the seals from the arctic did talk) and they'd feed him fish and let him live in the castle, which they claimed to own.
It would take days or weeks to walk through the mountain passes to the next town, so the only hope of contacting civilization was the weird, high-tech lighthouse out on a spit near the village. It was fully automated, but there was an access hatch, and Taegan was able to get inside and rewire the control signal (an incoming telegraph) to send a message back to whoever was sending it, which he'd have to hope they'd eventually notice, since the device wasn't meant to send signals both ways.
The lighthouse was fairly well fortified -- and kind of a deathtrap to people who didn't know clockwork; Taehan had to lead everyone in past all the wildly spinning gears -- so most of them decided to sleep upstairs in the crystal chamber. Jana slept on the roof instead, and the bear (who couldn't climb the ladder, and as far as he knew still had a nonagression pact with the seals) slept outside by the maintenance hatch.
By the time they all woke up (sometime after noon), the lighthouse was flashing in weird patterns -- Taegan wrote them down until they started repeating, then used his cryptography to teach himself morse code to read it. Apparently, they'd made contact with someone...
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