Chapter four: Horrers of Hag House
The fourth chapter and final free chapter of the feverously exciting first book, The Frontliners, of the The Myth of Krisodoris series
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It took a little questioning before Stoink gave up where they had kept Yinra Emberwind. Much to Prima’s dismay, they had to take Yinra to the healers.
Stoink and Sthlmast were handed over to the City Watch and were again taken to prison. After confirming the health of Yinra, the watchmaster came to The Sleeping Giant, as he had a reward to give them. Sybil Slytongue sits on a table facing the heroes and proudly says, “You all have acted in the bravest of manners. You have helped us bring to justice two criminals who had been out of the hand of law for more time than they should have been. I will put out a good word for you all.” He then sheepishly added, “However, I have a confession to make. I have but few coins to spare. I cannot possibly give you the 5000gp total as promised. But never let it be said that Sybil Slytongue reneges on a promise. Allow me to present something much more valuable.”
The watchmaster held out a scroll tube. “‘The deed to a remarkable property here in Waterdeep! We’ll need a magistrate to witness the transfer of ownership. I’ll arrange a meeting with one after you’ve inspected the estate and deemed it satisfactory. What say?” he said keeping a card scribbled with the property’s address on the table. Then the watchmaster left.
“You guys aren’t taking that property, are you?” Yelenda, the Dragonborn bartender said as peeked over Sir Reginal’s shoulder. “What is wrong?” Durm asked.
“See it is an old tavern. Since it closed down 30 years ago, no one, no one ever successfully spent an entire night inside the building. It is said that it used to be an orphanage before it was converted, the orphanage was controlled by a hag who ate the children. When it was found out, the place was cleared by Knights of Thor. It is said that the hag still lurks near the house and every night it comes back for flesh.” Yelenda had now got the attention of all the patrons.
“That’s totally the kind of place which I want to be associated with.” A patron called. “Why would anyone be interested in a haunted place such as this?” Prima asked.
“Because I am Dodame Odindatter. I am an extortionist and would love to clear this place.” she replied. “So let’s do it.” Durm enthusiastically told. Trollskull alley was a business location. In summer, it is rushing full of people. In all this stood out an old wooden building.
This once illustrious tavern sticks out like a sore thumb among the well-maintained buildings surrounding it. Four stories tall and boasting balconies, a turret, and five chimneys, the abandoned building were once one of the grandest in Trollskull Alley.
The double doors on the eastern terrace of the building are heavily chained and a rusting padlock dangles from the iron handles. An old sign is mounted above the doorway, although one of the chains has come loose and it now hangs precariously. The words “Trollskull Manor” are etched into the wood.
On the north side of the building, there is a narrow set of stairs leading to the second-floor doorway which is also chained and locked. “Ok, this place needs a lot of renovation before anyone uses it,” Octavius said.
“We ought to ask the watchmaster for a discount or waiver on renovation charges. Then maybe this can be profitable.” Durm said. “So we accept this? We really accept this?” Ape asked.
“See guys, I don’t want any rewards. But I feel that this is much better than getting some gold?” Sir Reginald said. “Let’s go to the courthouse.”
The courthouse was a grand building with concrete pillars, covered with climbers, symbolising the strength of law in times of chaos. The place was busy with people moving in and out like the wind. The place smelled like parchment and ink. There was noise all around, people talking to their representatives. Police siding the families of victims from reaching the accused, civil arguments turning non-civil. The watchmaster was unnoticed here. He took the characters to one of the many rooms in this labyrinth of rooms. Where they were greeted by a blue tiefling with blue hair. She is wearing a pink suit and had a ribbon tied around her left horn. “Hullo, Velgoria. These are the people whom I told you about.” the watchmaster said. “Sybil, so you are transferring Trollskull manor to these guys if I read correctly?” She asked. ‘Yes. I think they’ll handle it well.” He replied.
“And by it, you refer to…” Ape asked. “To the business. Not to any vile creatures in it, not that I know of any,” he replied.
“And you agree to provide a 30-50% waiver on the cost of renovation?” Velgoria orderly asked. “I drafted the paper, I know what it says, don’t repeat it.” the watchmaster shouted. “Sorry lovey-dovey, I can’t do that. It’s my job to state the terms in front of both the parties unless there is a unanimous consent to skip that formality, I don’t stand to skip it…”
“There is unanimous consent. Now let’s sign it.” Ape interrupted. The magistrate nodded. She then handed both the party a pen and enclosed the deed.
The manor was successfully transferred. Now, all that was left was to wait for the night to clear the place, of its hauntings.
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The heroes stood at the entrance of the tavern and waited for Dodame to come. The street was filled with shops of all kinds. One very peculiar one, which came to Prima’s notice, was a shop which was nothing but an empty room with a set of curtains blocking the inner area. The shopkeeper occasionally went behind the curtain and returned with things that the customer had ordered. She didn’t understand the appeal of the shop as it had no branding except a clear printed name reading The Magic Missler. Her wonder was stopped in the middle by Dodame. “Sorry guys, I was dressing up. Who knows what we encounter today?” Dodame said, dressed in a black dress with green overlaps. She wore a helm with long black horns. Durm lead the path and infront of the once-prosperous tavern, he opened the lock and unravelled the chain. He opened the door slightly and walked in.
Stepping inside, the scent of pungent mildew and sour beer hits one immediately. The large taproom is furnished with several broken tables and chairs and an L-shaped bar. An old dusty hearth inhabits the north side of the room. Black ash has spilt from the hearth and small black vermin footprints are scattered around the floor.
Shattered glass and broken shelves surround the bar and behind it is a padlocked hatch to the basement and a pantry to the south. Two large metal hooks adorn the wall behind the bar, although whatever was once hung is no longer there. Dodame pulls out a copper mechanism. It starts to spin violently. “What is this?” Prima asks.
“A coptop. It looks for the presence of certain energies. Currently, I am looking for supernatural evil. Spinning indicates presence, soon enough it will stop and tell us the direction.” she explained. “Look it stopped,” Durm exclaimed. “It’s pointing south,” Dodame said. “But that is a wall,” Octavius whined.
“No. It must be behind the bar. South may sometimes mean move laterally and then south.” Sir Reginald explained.
“How do you know that?” Dodame asked. “Military,” he answered filled with pride.
Wretched smells emanate from the pantry. Broken casks and crates lean against the stone walls, with slanting shelves holding rat rotten sacks.
Some sacks ooze and drip with the remnants of long-decayed produce. Vermin have nibbled holes in grain sacks, leaving little behind aside from floury paw prints on the shelves and ground. Beyond the pantry are broken swinging doors leading to the kitchen.
The two heavy iron stoves in the kitchen remain mostly intact, aside from water damage and rust spots from a dripping broken window that has been barred with wood planks. A large, sturdy prep table in the centre of the kitchen is dusty and covered in rodent droppings but otherwise standing. Cabinets once holding kitchen tools have been flung open and looted, except one which is closed and looks unaffected by time, other than scratches on its handles. The hearth here has a few missing bricks but a large cast-iron cauldron still hangs in place. Inside the cauldron, there’s a long-abandoned bird’s nest. The coptop had stopped spinning entirely and only pointed at the unopened cabinet. “The hag is in the cupboard!” Durm exclaimed. “How can that be? They are normally slightly taller than humans and a human would hardly fit in this cupboard.” Prima argued.
“I think he meant that a portal to her lair is through this cupboard.” Ape explained. “You don’t know to detect magic. You can’t possibly discern that.” Octavius protested. “Ok! I’ll explain.” She shouted. “The other cupboards were looted by animals but this was left untouched. Of course, this could just be a coincidence, or it could be that they were scared to go near this cupboard, but then comes the fact that no other door handle has scratches, except this one, as if something with long nails held it, quite a few times. Which animal would have done so? Also, smell the cupboard, it smells different, the rest place smells of rats but this smells of rot, decaying woods. Huh, don’t hags live in woods and especially forest areas covered with dead and decaying matter?” Ape explained.
“The parrot is right. Let’s barge in.” Sir Reginald barked as he moved towards the door. Dodame stopped him, “Hags normally live as a group of three and have security measures. We have to enter the place quietly.”
She opened the cupboard and Durm led as everyone quietly walked through the cupboard’s wall.
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The woods were quiet that night, and the air chilled. A fog hangs thick in the air, turning the trees around you into grey ghosts. The woods darken as the trees begin to close ranks, their needle-covered arms interlock and shut the moon off. The shroud of mist that covers the ground turns into creeping walls of grey fog that silently envelop you until you can’t see more than a few feet in any direction. Soon the tracks also disappear. “Mists!” Dodame exclaimed. “What?” Octavius asks. “Mists, they are barriers created by Gods to seal intense evil into an area beyond reach. It looks like the paladins of Thor had done their work nicely, but somehow the Hags found a way to escape it.” She explained.
“What does ‘escape it’ mean?” Prima aggressively asked. “Once inside the mists, one cannot leave; until the evil is destroyed.” She grimly answered. “Shit! So if we don’t defeat the hags, we are trapped here.” Durm reiterated. “That just makes this mission more necessary.’ Sir Reginald motivates and marches forward.
In front of them stood a small three-story house with white exteriors. The windows were wooden and closed and the roof was red, red as if painted with blood. Its iron gates trembled with the winds and its hinges moaned. The house looked like a normal upper-middle-class house but it was shrouded with a sense of dread. The door was open as if welcoming the visitor inside.
The main hall was strangely welcoming. In the gloom of the place, the main hall seemed untouched. Its wood-panelled walls are ornately carved with idyllic scenes of frolicking nymphs and satyrs. At one end of the hall, a sweeping red marble staircase climbs to unknown heights; at the other is a black marble fireplace, warm and inviting. Mounted above the fireplace is a longsword with a badly carved black yew hilt.
Music floats down the stairs—a harp. It’s all right. It starts and stops. Sections are often repeated, this time with gusto. The lyrics resemble old nursery rhymes. Dodame signals towards the stairs. She starts climbing and everybody else follows. A cold air blows as it delivers the heroes to a darkened hall. Above the mantelpiece hang portraits of happy families. Each one holding a baby in a cradle. The baby has a number written on it in dried blood. Two mahogany doors are intricately carved with dancing youths. Suits of armour flank these doors, clutching spears, their gazes empty beneath wolf-shaped visors. A third, thin door stands to the right of the stairs, which continue climbing upward.
“These are the children which the hag ate and then returned after 13 days. After 13 years, they will turn into hags themselves. This is the count.” Dodame whispers. Prima frowns in disgust. “The music, it is coming from the right side door.” Durm whispers.
“Let’s check.” Sir Reginald says as he slams the door open. A harp looms out from the dark, facing a nearby mahogany piano. The brass-plated chandelier casts a dull sheen as if to half-heartedly warn you away. The fireplace lies cold, decorated by bone figurines depicting human anatomy neatly placed on the mantelpiece. Velvet upholstered chairs line the walls for those that would be serenaded with what would no doubt be beautiful music. It’s lonely here. A chill hangs in the air. There is a sudden stop in the rhyme. The lady who was playing the music gets up from her stool and turns towards the heroes, “I waited a long time for food. At last, you all came to aunty.” She said in a cold voice. “attack!” Ape shouted. As he charged in with his rapier. The hag had dissolved its illusionary form as a sweet grandmother and now was a green witch whose nails were red and bits of flesh stuck to her teeth.
She dogded the rapier. Ape dicked allowing Sir Reginald to slice her bare chest with his axes. The hag is unaffected by the blood flowing like a river from her chest. She starts whistling a lullaby, Sir Reginald’s body collapses and he lies unconscious.
Durm runs through the room and fires a multitude of arrows, one after the other. The back of the hag is scarlet and grey. She falls down lifeless and millions of bugs start crawling through the floorbeds, healing her wounds and pulling out her arrows. She gets up and wickedly laughs. Octavius opens his leather spellbook and shouts some enchantments, A purple bolt of electricity jolts through the ait but just as it was about to hit the hag, she mutters something dispelling his magic. She then jumps up and the ceiling absorbs her. Along with Sir Reginald. Who was still unconscious.
“Up!” Octavius roared. Our heroes ran up the stairs. The red marble staircase delivers them to its full height: the third floor. The steps were chocked full of dust as if never used in ages. The walls— carved with autumn woodland scenes—are mounted by unlit oil lamps. An infant’s cries cut the silence into tattered chunks while a cobwebbed suit of armour stands in eternal vigilance, facing the balcony railing. Then it turns and unsheathes its sword. Durm’s bow was still in his hand and without wasting any time he shot the armour. The shoulder padding fell off and the chest place was punctured. The armour was empty, however still was ‘alive’.
Ape jumped forward with his rapier and missed, spectacularly. However, in doing so she exposed herself to damage. The armour grabbed her by the scruff of her neck and banged her across the wall and threw her down the stairs. Dodame touches her helm and it produces three spikes which she throws at the armour, disabling its knee legs and head. The armour crashes downwards and shatters into its various components. “Hit at the head and break it’s the neck.” Dodame preached. “Commander is up,” Prima announced. “There are no more stairs.” Octavius irritatedly told. “Unless…” Dodame said as she kicked a wall opening it. It was a secret door. Everyone moved up.
The attic is choked with dust and cobwebs. A padlocked door stands nearby, from which the sounds of children at play float. It starts slowly at first, but soon a baby begins its wailing. After a few moments, you hear feet in the north, and a door creaking open.
The chamber is packed with old furniture draped in yellowing sheets—chairs, coat racks, coaches dappled with mould, standing mirrors, mannequins that loom out from the shadows like forgotten widows and witnesses to ruin. An iron cauldron stands nearby with two hags over it. One of them ignorantly ask, “Polly, is the green man cut? My broth is ready.”
“Ethel have patience the man’s skin is hard. Almost stone-like.” Polly screamed.
“They have Reginald,” Durm screamed. Dodame sighed. “Olga, I almost forgot. We had five more mortals to eat.” Polly delightfully added.
The hags looked almost identical. Same green skin, same wrinkled texture and the same ornaments all around. The only identifier was their bracelets on the right hand. Polly’s bracelet was made of bones, Ethel’s of glass and Olga’s of mushrooms.
Ethel and Olga chanted loudly, “See us here, see us there. Dark sisterhood everywhere.”
Two more hags appeared behind the heroes. “These are illusionary duplicates. They don’t do anything but cause utter confusion,” Dodame informed. Polly then chanted, “Close the doors and seal the windows. Won’t stop us but our foes hindow.”
Every door and window in the room slammed shut, they didn’t move despite the great wind outside. Octavius latched open his leather spellbook and pointed at Ethel and Olga, and their duplicates. Four broken shards of wood floated up from the floor and hit the hags with extreme speed. Before the shards could touch the hags, Olga snapped her fingers. The projectiles turned sideways and hit the walls with great force. Dodame pulls out a spike from her helm, licks it and runs to stab Ethel. Ethel moves out and knees her. Dodame falls forward and receives another swift kick in her back by the hag as it laughs in delight.
Ape lurches forward and stabs Ethel on her back. Green blood flows out of where the rapier was as Ape is pulled and thrown across the room by Polly, who had left the kitchen and was now in the battle. Before she could hit the wall, she stabilized herself and landed on the floor; unhurt.
“You ok?” Durm asked. “Great,” She said pointing to Polly’s back, which was exposed for the attack.
Durm shot an arrow, which passed through its spine and across its stone heart as the hag fell down and was absorbed by the floor.
Prima hit her wooden staff on the floor as it turned into a giant snake who moved slowly towards the hags. Then her body glowed with stary light as it turned into a bear, a big white polar bear. She growled at the hags. Ethel and Olga walked straight through the left and right walls. Prima in her bear form, quickly rushed to the locked door and rammed it to shards, as Dodame and Ape rushed to follow Ethel and Durm and Prima, the bear and her snake tracked down Olga.
Octavius ran to the kitchen in a try to revivify Sir Reginald.
The kitchen, gloomy as it might be, is tidy. The shelves are neatly stocked with different horrifying ingredients. The worktable has been wiped clean, a cutting board left behind as the only oversight, on it lies Sir Reginald. The iron pipes of the oven snake out like a willow tree caught in a windstorm, twisting up and into the ceiling. The door to the ‘knife storage’ hangs ajar, with a saw out of the place.
Octavius half-heartedly checks Sir Reginald’s pulse, he was afraid that he had lost a newfound friend. But the pulse was there, It was normal. There was no sign of damage on him. Octavius filled a glass of water from the nearby tanker and threw it on Goliath’s face. ‘It was all a nightmare. The incident happened 10 years ago.” Sir Reginald shouted. He then looked at Octavius, “So we are actually in a hag house?” he asked. “Yes. It was unfortunately not just a nightmare. Wait, You were sleeping?” Octavius asked.
“Yes. I remember running to attack that hag and then falling asleep,” he replied.
“So you were not dead.” Octavius delightfully said.
“No, I just had a refreshing sleep. Only that the last dream was a nightmare.” He casually replied. Octavius hugged Sir Reginald. “Um, That’s new.” the soldier said. “Same here,” Octavius added, coming out of the hug. “So now that you are done with your sentimentality, let’s hunt a hag.” Sir Reginald said.
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Octavius and Reginald had tracked Polly down to the lower floor. They followed her bloody footprints to a black door. Just as they reached for the door, Octavius paused, craning his ear. The wailing of newborn echoes throughout the suite. A young woman tries to quiet the child, poorly singing a lullaby. Gently, he teases open the door, finding no one inside. Instead, the cries come from behind a curtain. He tiptoes to the curtain and unfurls it. A young woman dressed in a blood-red gown, there however is no child. The women’s gown dissolves into a butcher apron and her pale skin turns shades of vivid green. The smooth skin turns rough and features turn haggish. They had walked straight into Polly’s trap. She plucked his hair and muttered, “Octavius Casselenter, I curse you to death.”
As soon as she completed her statement, the room is shrouded in purple mists Octavius steps back and pulls out a cigarette and hits it on the ground as it turns into a ray of flame. The hag dodges it once but this time Octavius wouldn’t miss it, he aimed it on the secondary location of the hag, where the hag would most probably move and he succeeded.
The hag dress caught fire and in its try to extinguish it miscalculated the presence of Sir Reginald. He threw his axe right through the flame ray and had the flamming axe hit the hag almost beheading her.
The ceiling shook as Dodame, Ape and Ethel fell through. Octavius turned around and Polly scratched him on the back. He shouted in pain as the claw dug through him and the curse which the hag had bestowed sucked out more of his life. However, before the claws could tear his lungs, A ray of sickening greenish energy lashed out toward Polly. Ape and Dodame stopped, Ethel had just saved Octavius at the cost of her own sister.
She smiled, and haughtily said, “Polly was the most cruel of all of us. I know that most hags hate mortals but I am different. I don’t believe that you are God’s playthings. I see you all as the shapers of reality.”
“Wait, So you were on our side all the time?” Ape asked, full of doubt.
“Of course, Why would I otherwise suggest my sisters to split up? Why would I break the floor? Why would I kill Polly?” She asked.
“Hags, often betray their sisterhood for personal gains. How do we know that you are not lying?” Dodame criticed. “Because right now, You are all in the area for many of my spells but I am not casting a single one.” the hag winked. “Now let’s slay Olga, my slave master, who calls me sister, who has turned me into a slave. She commands me and has me do dark deeds. Tonight, I end her forever and ever.
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Our heroes along with their hag companion walked up the marble staircase. As they reached the second floor, where Durm and Prima stood battling Olga, their bodies froze. Every muscle was tense and movement impossible. Ethel laughed, “You taught that I betrayed my sisterhood. Fools! I am not a traitor. I just choose Olga and my survival over Polly’s. And now your friends suffer the same fate my sister did.”
She walked straight into the battle and threw a bottle filled with black clouds onto Durm and Prima, who was no longer a bear and her python had already returned to its staff form.
As soon as the bottle broke, a ray of lightning emerged from its last glass shard. Prima was electrocuted and was in a bad state however, Durm had managed to escape most of it. He took a shot and fired an arrow he had managed to get on fire with the electricity, towards Ethel. She screamed with searing pain. She pulled out the arrow and broke it. She gave a death stare to Durm and she started muttering a curse when a dagger hit her. She fell face first. She then turned around to look, Dodame. “I thought that you were frozen?” the dying hag said. “And I thought that you were siding with us.” Dodame said as she pulled out her sword and put it through the hag, “You are not the only person good at acting.” she said before pulling out her sword. The hag was lifeless.
Olga looked at Dodame. She didn’t see the elven lady dressed in green and black, she saw a nightmare. Half of her body was still pale-skinned, filled with elvish charm but the other half was skeletal and necromantic. The left was the picture of a woman who she was, the right of what she does. She wore leaf green on the left and death black on the right, there was no Dodame, there was Dod Dame, the lady of death.
The hag looked fearful for the first time, she quickly ran through the floors and ceilings. Till now, Sir Reginald, Ape and Octavius returned back to their senses. They ran downwards. On the second floor, cold air blew as the staircase delivered the heroes to a darkened hall. Above the mantelpiece hanged portraits of happy families. Each one holding a baby in the cradle. The baby has a number written on it in dried blood. The hag stood untidily plucking photos off the wall, “It might be here. I pinned it myself. Wh-where is it?” She muttered to herself.
Sir Reginald pulled out his axes and pushed the hag down. “Give me a reason!” He shouted, looking at the photos of the families the hags had destroyed. Olga shuffled papers in her hand, she saw something and smiled, “This,” She wistfully said.
The photo had a lady who resembled Sir Reginald strangely. It may have been a sister, or maybe his mother. No, she was a lot younger, she was his daughter. “What have you got to do with her?” He shouted, as his axe inched closer. “Your granddaughter, she disappeared for 13 days, almost 13 years ago. In five days..” “She will become a hag.” Ape blurted.
The hag wickedly laughed. “I can remove her curse. I just need you to not kill me. You don’t destroy my life, I don’t destroy hers.” Olga added.
For the first time, Sir Reginald’s hands shook. He could end her at the moment but no, he couldn’t. He knew what would happen otherwise.
There has to be a way to stop it. He was frozen in deep thought. What would he value more, his kin or justice?
Dodame, Durm and Prima had joined the heroes. They too had seen the gravity of the situation. Sir Reginald stepped back, from the wall. He turned and had hung his head low in shame. He had let emotion override justice, he had made the same mistake he had done on his last day. “Don’t think about that day. It was different.” The hag whispered.
It was not different. That day he lost many lives because he had- he had listened to his heart above his brain. Not today, he looked at the axe still held in his hands and swiftly turned and with a straight chop, decapitated the hag.
While the hag took last breaths, Sir Reginald broke down. He had lost his granddaughter. Dodame moved melancholily towards him, “Commander lookup. There is hope.”
Sir Reginald looked up, he saw Dodame’s true face. He realized that the lady of death stood in front of him. “Tomorrow, take your granddaughter to the skyplough. I’ll work out an arrangement.” she smiled.
Then Dodame scratched a Sybil on the floor and as the final line was drawn, Dodame was gone, to the pantheon of gods, while the heroes were outside the Trollskull Manor, just in time for the sunrise to one of the darkest nights.
This is it for our heros.
This is the fourth and final free chapter of the first book, The Frontliners, of the The Myth of Krisodoris series.
Next week, we’ll start with the second book and needless to say, The only way you can be in on the discussion is to buy the book.
And it truly isn’t that expensive, Get it here for 1.99 USD(Inclusive Taxes) only https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09DZ587RZ
Signing out for now,