Tak and Sigthyme turned left into one of the front rooms while the rest of the party headed towards the back of the manor. Sections of the house seemed to be wet with rain and moldy while other parts were dry and dusty. Rats scurried across the floor running from one pile of wood and brick to another.
As all three of them walked through the main hallway, Riffen and Juniper noticed the decay in the rooftops and the partially collapsed stairs. Grace was too busy running after the rats. She managed to pick up a large log and the rats scurried away into a hole in the wall.
“Come on Grace, we have a mission to do,” Juniper said.
“I wonder why she would play around in this creepy house,” Riffen looked around.
“Bored kids with nothing to do,” Juniper shrugged. “I’ve been there.”
“Me too,” Grace kicked at some small bits of brick.
“Nothing to do? I always had things to do. Meetings to attend. Books to read,” Riffen said.
He then stopped mid-stride and looked back to see that both Grace and Juniper had stopped walking and just stared at him.
“Books? Seriously?” Grace asked. “You sound like a huge nerd.”
“You kind of sound like my brother,” Juniper said with a sigh.
There was a brief moment of silence.
“Come on, let’s go find Chloe,” Riffen said as he lead the group deeper into Willowstalker Manor.
They walked towards the end of the hall. There were three doors ahead of them. One looked like a back door that lead to a parlor room on the back of the building. One lead to the kitchen, and the third lead to a large dining room.
“Let’s try the dining room,” Riffen said and the others agreed.
They stepped into the dining room which still had a large table in its center. It could easily host twenty or more people around it for a large meal. However it had no dishes or tablecloths. It was barren, covered in only bits of dust, dirt, and rat droppings. Large sections of the second floor had fallen cutting this room off of another. There were scraps of broken chairs, cabinets, and other discarded furniture.
“Chloe, Chloe!” Juniper whispered loudly.
Grace sneaked into the room looking low with her hands on a dagger.
“No little girl,” Grace said.
“Yeah I don’t see anything,” Riffen said as both Juniper and him walked into the room.
“Wait, what’s that?” Juniper pointed towards an overturned cabinet which used to have a glass door on the front.
Inside the cabinet was a small source of light.
“Is that a fire?” Grace asked as she stepped forward.
Out of the cabinent two small balls of light emerged and hung in the air.
“Woah,” Riffen said.
“Watch out,” Grace held out one hand and pulled a dagger from her belt.
“Wait,” Juniper shouted.
But it was too late, Grace threw her dagger at the orb on her left. The dagger sailed through the air and struck a pile of brick behind the lights and then bounced to the floor.
The lights vanished.
“What was that?” Juniper asked.
“I’ve seen things like that before,” Grace said. “They’re Will-o-wisps. Spirits of children.”
Riffen pulled out his sword and readied his shield.
“Should we fight them?” He asked.
“If they are the spirits of the Willowstalker children, maybe we can reason with them,” Juniper said.
The two lights emerged behind them unleashing bolts of lightning. One bolt struck Grace hitting her in the back and the other hit Riffen striking him in the shoulder.
Grace stumbled sideways and Juniper caught her before she hit the ground.
“Riffen kill them,” Juniper said helping Grace stand.
Riffen ran forward and slashed with his sword and cut one sphere in half. It pulsed red and began to reform. Then they both disappeared.
“Are they gone?” Juniper said.
“They can go invisible,” Grace said picking up her thrown dagger.
Riffen looked around continuing to raise his shield.
“I don’t see anything,” He said.
There was a stillness in the room. Heavy rain still came down outside and little bits of water entered the house from above through some kind of leak, but the living room was silent.
“Maybe they left,” Juniper said with a shrug.
Then there was a shift. Small bits of wood and brick started to rumble and lift up into the air followed by larger and large pieces.
“Why did you say that?” Grace asked.
There in the center of the room hovering over the empty table was a swirling mass of items. Broken chairs, stone bricks, discarded candlesticks, small pieces of glass. All of it making up a swirling mass of things.
Juniper pulled her bow off of her back and nocked an arrow. She pulled back the string and shot an arrow towards the center of the ghostly mass. The arrow flew but struck the broken chair doing no damage to the spirit.
“Split up!” Juniper shouted.
The creature swung a large chunk of stone bricks at the group. Grace and Juniper were able to get out of the way, but Riffen moved too slow. The stones slammed into Riffen hitting him the chest.
Grace ran to her right towards the collapsed part of the room. She threw another dagger mid-run. The dagger managed to miss a flying log and struck the cloud in the center. She then threw another dagger which missed the mass entirely.
Riffen then shook himself off and ran towards the mass. He slashed at the mass of items cutting a chair in half and struck the cloud. Some of the smaller items fell out of its orbit landing on the ground.
Juniper ran to her left near the doorway and attacked with an arrow once again. The arrow overshot the cloud striking one of the boards hanging down from the ceiling.
“Come on,” She shouted.
The creature seemed to panic and threw items in all directions. Half a chair hit Juniper, the other half hit Riffen, and a log struck Grace. Grace was struck in her head and she crumpled to the floor.
“Grace!” Riffen yelled.
He struck forward with his blade piercing the cloud. There was a wail coming from the cloud as the items in the air stopped and fell to the ground smashing on the stone floor. The swirling cloud faded into mist.
Riffen and Juniper’s eyes met before Juniper jumped over the table with an impressive leap and knelt down next to Grace. Juniper touced her hand to Grace’s bloody head wound and magical energy flowed down her arm. The blood stopped and Grace’s eyes opened.
“I have a major headache,” Grace said reaching up to touch the blood. “Is this my blood?”
“Yeah, don’t worry, Juniper saved you,” Riffen said.
“Are you guys ok?”
All three of them turned to see Sigthyme and Tak standing in the doorway.
“We’re ok,” Juniper said helping Grace up to her feet before walking over to Sigthyme.
Riffen hoped off the dinging room table onto the stone floor. He bent down to pick up Grace’s two daggers and he handed them to her.
“Here, these are yours,” He said.
“Thanks,” She said.
“Did you find the girl?” Sightyme asked.
“No, just ghosts,” Juniper said.
“Floating light balls,” Tak said.
“You saw them too?” Juniper asked.
“Yeah we saw a couple of those,” Sigthyme said. “I believe they are the spirits of the children that died here.”
“Yeah that’s what I think too,” She said.
“That swirling ghost thing was no child spirit. Way too powerful,” Grace said.
“Maybe that was the mother or father,” Riffen suggested.
“That means that there is at least one more spirit here,” Sigthyme said.
“That’s probably where Chloe is,” Juniper said.
“I think we need to head upstairs,” Riffen said.
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Sigthyme sighed.
The whole group made their way down the hallway towards the entrance of the house. They decided to stick together. No more splitting up.
There at the front were two staircases, but one was horribly damaged and unable to be climbed.
“I guess it’s the staircase on the right,” Riffen said.
They walked up the stairs with Sigthyme and Tak upfront, Riffen and Grace in the middle, and Juniper in the back.
As they got to the top, there were eight orbs of light floating there.
“Hello…ghost children,” Sigthyme said. “Can you take us to the human child?”
The lights glowed a little brighter and floated around the corner, down the hallway.
Sigthyme looked back at some puzzled faces.
“I guess they like me,” He said with a shrug.
There at the end of the hallway was a large master bedroom which was covered in dust and cobwebs. Most of the room was torn to sunder with overturned and destoryed furniture. There on the center of the bed was a little girl.
“Chloe!” Juniper took a step forward but Sigthyme held up a hand.
The glowing orbs surrounded the girl. Her eyes looked glazed over and her hair floated in the air.
“Something’s not right,” Riffen said.
“You are intruders in this home,” Chloe spoke but there were ghostly echoes to her speech.
Sigthyme held up his hands trying to be nonthreatening.
“We are just here for the girl. We have no want to fight you,” He said.
“You have hurt my husband and my children,” Chloe spoke. “Now you come here to hurt me.”
“Just give us the girl and we’ll leave,” Riffen said.
Chloe turned her head towards him.
“The girl is mine. Now leave,” Chloe said.
“Let her go!” Juniper stamped her foot.
Chloe’s head turned.
“You must leave,” She said.
The orbs began glowing brighter.
“Hold it, there’s no need for violence,” Sigthyme said. “We’re here because there is a concerned mother wanting her daughter back. You know what that’s like, right? You miss your children. Your husband. You would hate if someone came along and took them from you.”
“They were taken from me!” Chloe yelled.
“And you think it’s fair to take others away from their family?” Sigthyme asked.
The orbs changed forms shifting into the forms of their former selves. Ghost children that looked like they were the age between 17 and 4.
“This little girl still has a mother. A father. People who really care about her,” Sigthyme said.
Chloe’s face softened.
“I wanted to protect her,” She said.
“We want that as well,” Sigthyme said. “Don’t worry, we’ll take her to her mother. She will be safe.”
Then her head flew back and the white mist poured out of her mouth. She fell back onto the bed uncoucnious while the spirit of a mother hovered above her.
“Take her and leave,” The ghost said.
Sigthyme tapped Tak’s arm, but Juniper pushed forward. Juniper walked over to the bed and picked up Chloe into her arms.
“Thank you,” Sigthyme said with a nod.
The group then moved quickly through the house and down the stairs.
Sigthyme ran out into the ran and put both hands on his knees, breathing heavy.
“I’m so glad we’re out of that house!” He said with deep breaths.
“Me too,” Riffen said.
Juniper held Chloe in her arms.
“Is she ok?” Grace asked.
“Yeah she’s fine. Just asleep,” Juniper said. “Don’t worry. She just needs some rest.”
“Want me to carry girl?” Tak asked.
Juniper shook her head no.
“It’s fine. I’ll carry her. Let’s just get back to the shop so we can reunite Chloe with her mother.”
“To the tin can!” Sigthyme said.
“You mean The Copper Pot?” Riffen asked.
“Yeah whatever. That.”
The group made their way through the rain leaving the Willowstalker Manor behind and walked the muddy streets of The Modern Graveyard. After a half of hour of traveling back to the inner part of the town, they were soaked with rain and exhausted but they made it without any more trouble.
They entered the door of The Copper Pot and Christine ran up to them.
“Chloe! Chloe! Is she ok?”
Juniper knelt down and laid Chloe down on the floor next to Christine.
“She’s fine. Just exhausted,” Juniper said.
Chloe’s eyes fluttered open.
“Mom,” She said with a hoarse voice.
“Oh thank Pelor, you’re alive,” Christine said with a large smile on her face.
She hugged her daughter and held her tight before looking up to the group.
“Thank you so much,” She said with tears in her eyes.
“We were happy to do it,” Juniper said.
“Yeah it wasn’t a big deal,” Sigthyme said.
“I owe you so much,” Christine said. “I’ll never forget this.”
“You’ve already given us two healing potions. That is enough,” Riffen said.
“Hungry,” Tak said rubbing his stomach.
“Of course! You must be over for dinner,” Christine said. “I can make some stew for all of us.”
“That’s not neccessary,” Juniper said.
“I insist,” She said with a stern Mom voice.
“That’s settled then. We’ll have some stew with you,” Riffen said.
It was decided. Christine closed up shop early and brought the whole group and Chloe over to her house. They sat around the dinner table making small talk with one another before eating a delicious rabbit and potato stew. Christine insisted that the group stay the night with them. Chloe slept in her mother’s room. Grace and Juniper slept in Chloe’s room and the boys took the living room. Riffen slept on a couch, Sigthyme a large chair, and Tak slept on the ground. The group talked a little bit about getting ready for their journey tomorrow before quickly falling asleep from exhaustion.
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