We stood there for a moment admiring the painting.
“We should get this back to the baron”, Baldwin said, breaking the silence.
“What about the forest?” I said, “We never found out how long this corruption has been going on for and how fast it’s spreading”.
“We’re not being paid for doing anything with the forest,” Melech replied bitterly.
“But you heard the pixie, we’re supposed to be heroes, saving the forest is far more heroic, will have far more prestige than retrieving some painting” I stammered desperately, trying to appeal to what I thought might count for something.
“I disagree. this painting chronicles a long-lost historic tale and we’ll be remembered for finding it” countered Melech steadfastly.
I sighed, both Baldwin and Melech didn’t seem concerned with helping the forest and although Beiro would probably be with me, we’d need their help as well to defeat whatever curse was infesting it.
“Well, I think we all agree we need to search the rest of this mansion first, maybe something else here will change the situation.” The rest of the group nodded in unison, something we could agree on at least.
We had a thorough exploration of the rest of ground floor, finding more signs of abandonment, although seemingly suddenly, dirty mouldy pots and rotting food abound. The larder had a couple of non-perishables left that could tide my rations situation over for a couple of days if we found this place was indeed empty.
We proceeded up the stairs to the next level and found a landing room with various trinkets in it, ceramic vases and the like. After taking another step into the room, however, the carpet reared up and wrapped itself around Baldwin. We needed to do something fast before it suffocated him!. Melech cast the same wave of energy spell from before, with a slight effect on the carpet, but muffled yelps told us it was hurting Baldwin too. Baldwin managed to get free briefly, giving me and Beiro a chance to get a clean attack on the carpet, but it quickly attached itself again. I tried to grab the carpet in an attempt to tear it free, but my fingers were like butter, failing to get a grasp on the flailing fabric. At that point, it went limp. Baldwin was out of air and it dropped him on the floor, unconscious. It shifted straight over and wrapped Melech, who could do little to defend himself and it wasn’t long before he succumbed to the same fate as Baldwin, as Beiro and myself failed to tear the carpet off. After dispatching Melech, it went for Beiro next, but Beiro was having none of it and beat it back with his axe, eventually grabbing it and tearing it in two.
As Beiro set about tearing the carpet into pieces, I put my ear to one of the doors to see if anything else might be coming. Listening for a moment I heard a faint bumping sound, but it was definitely coming closer. “Quick!” I hissed to Beiro “We need to get these two downstairs, now!”. I tied a piece of the carpet to the bottom Baldwin’s head so I could drag him down the stairs safely, while Beiro quickly dragged Melech down with less concern. At the bottom of the stairs, I stopped, curiosity getting the better of me, and looked back up the stairs. I waited for a few moments then suddenly one of the ceramic vases came flying past my head, shattering on the wall behind me. “Move!” I yelled at Beiro, who had also stopped and we both rushed out of the house dragging our unconscious allies. It seemed as though a rushing of air was following us and the moment we reached the threshold of the front door, it slammed shut behind us.
With everyone safely outside, I caught my breath and went back to the front door and hit the knocker again “Helloooo?!? We were hoping to talk to the owner of the house. We were worried they might be in trouble”. No response. Perturbed I pushed the door open again, still unlocked and just left it that way before going back to the others.
Baldwin and Melech woke up a couple of hours later, groggy and somewhat incredulous that they were downed by a carpet. “I have some bad news,” I said, as they stirred. There was something I’d spotted in the carpet’s room before we were chased out. “I don’t know whether you noticed, but there’s another copy of the painting upstairs, in the room with the carpet. At least one of them has to be a decoy of some kind. I want to have a closer look at the one on this floor, see whether it’s an illusion or something. It’ll give us a better idea of what we’re dealing with” “Well, I’m not going in there again right now, I still need more time to recover,” Melech said grumpily
I walked back into the house, cautiously checking around every corner for floating crockery, with Beiro close behind. Baldwin went around to the outside to keep an eye on the stairs through one of the arrow slits. I walked over to the painting with one eye still on the stairs and reached out to touch it. With a slight slurping sound my hand stuck to it like glue. Crap. “Err, we have a problem here!” I shouted as I watched in fear as a set of teeth formed and sunk into my arm. “Melech! I think it’s a mimic!” I yelled, aware he was outside and unwilling to enter the house again unless urgent. I felt Beiro’s hands around my waist as he started pulling me away from the painting and the extra force gave me a chance to wrest my hand free, but the mimic lashed out again, sinking its teeth deep into my shoulder and the shock knocked me unconscious.
I woke up in a cold sweat in a tent what must’ve been a couple of hours later. I tentatively got up and made my way outside, finding the others relaxing on the grass. Baldwin was playing cards, Melech was leafing through his new book and Beiro was staring very intently at a little colony of rabbits hopping around on the other bank. “Thank you for getting me out of there. I guess…it was a little reckless in retrospect”. Melech grunted “This is a pretty serious mage’s house alright. There’s every trick in the book guarding this place, but no sign of the actual owner. We’ll need to recover fully before we take this on” he said.
Once more we headed into the house, determined to get to bottom of its secrets, undeterred by its numerous deadly challenges.