Tallavanor’s Tales: Castle Crusaders

Welcome back for another edition of Tallavanor’s Tales! Last time, our intrepid heroes had scared a prisoner into revealing a secret about Count Usher and the town of Usher, and now our heroes are off to investigate – with a new member! How far do they trust the artificer and his scary flying metallic wasp? Let’s find out!

As I write this report, we’re currently recuperating the Usher family mausoleum. Myself, the artificer Alastair, Claudia the bard and Gregario, Lordling/Ninja/Assassin (in training – perhaps simply aspiring to greatness). What a wild night. This short break is allowing me to rest up and bandage some of these wounds I took during the ambush on the road. It’s true what the artificer said. The castle is aflame. Fortunately the cold rain is keeping the fires from spreading.

As for our temporary resting place, the blacksmith word was good, for once. The back trail did lead us right here, and this mausoleum is suspiciously well kept. Especially considering the state of the grounds, this place is immaculate.

low angle photography of the tomb in lodi gardens
Photo by Arif Imran on Pexels.com

The other concerning thing, of course, is the lack of dead bodies. In fact, we’ve found not one bone or scrap of cloth or hair at all. Every alcove is empty and swept clean. This reeks of necromancy, and the possibility of using those bodies to create some sort of anti-aging potion is indeed becoming more likely by the moment. our new companion Alastair provided the key connection – explaining that dead bodies may or may not have something to do with making such a potion. He claims to have no full knowledge (Ha! A likely story!) but the man if shifty enough for me. Somehow he has Claudia convinced of his true purpose, so I’ll just have to wait and see.

With our wounds bandaged and our weapons reloaded, we lock the blacksmith inside the mausoleum. Naturally I’ll be informing the local authorities – those that can be found who are trustworthy – to pick him up later. In the meantime, we make for the castle.The weather had taken a turn for the worst, the rain picking up and lightning occasionally splitting the sky.

Alastair shows us a secret entrance that leaves us in a gloomy hallway somewhere in the basement. As we creep along, Gregario takes the lead, scouting rooms that, from my investigation of the dust left behind, haven’t been occupied in ten years – ever since the current count’s father was killed in a hunting accident.

Why is it always a ‘hunting accident?’

The alchemy labs are impressive, the equipment first rate, and I tactfully ignore the sounds of various pieces of evidence being taken, ahem, secured for future trial purposes by the artificer. Our entrance route takes us up, up, up to what Alastair tells us is the third floor. “This is where I found the passage.” He tells us. “Naturally I was simply finding a way to take out my attackers one at a time.” There are no dead bodies, however, merely rooms ransacked and various fine possessions told asunder. Bedroom after bedroom yield little clues other than slashed curtains and broken bed frames.

As we explore deeper, we descend down to the main floor. Here things begin to look familiar to us from our first visit. Fire has obviously scorched this part of the building, but the ever consistent drip drip drip from the ceiling gives us the obvious manner in which the fire went out.

The count’s study was ransacked, the tables once piled high with manuscripts and books nothing but ash. I’m certain a closer inspection would have yielded more information, but at this point we were all on edge and the need to find the count or his servant Tresfor become the primary mission. A door led to the count’s opulent, but ransacked bedroom, and I discovered a secret door in his office. Both rooms were thoroughly damaged, but I fear we shall have to return to find more information.

The hidden passageway lead us to the servants quarters and the kitchen. Finally, a clue revealed itself in several bloody footprints leading through the large servant quarters to a small closet, where we found the body of Tresfor. He had bled out within the last half hour, and I fear our temporary rest had indeed prevented us from saving him. T’was a moment where haste would have been most suitable, but our response – caution – was both natural and prudent.

We left the poor man there, hoping against hope to find the count. The last remaining area of the castle that remained unexplored was the stables, where Alastair was delighted to find his wagon load of supplies fully intact. Unfortunately for him, the horses were gone, taken by three men whom Gregario had seen escaping just as we made our approach to the mausoleum. Could we have chased them? Not a chance – not in the dark, on foot, in unfamiliar territory.

As it was, we faced a new threat as we gathered back upstairs, looking out from the battlements towards the road. A mob was headed our way, torches blazing away like a sea of fireflies. At their head was the village priest shouting “Give us back our count! Death to the monster!”

Time to break out the old negotiating tactics.

Read the Next Installment Here!

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Author: Daniel Ottalini

Author of the Award-Winning Steam Empire Chronicles Series

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