I have to cover my nose from how badly the stench of death rots the air. The hidden staircase we found in the attic led downward into darkness. It extends deeper than my party and I expect, and the stone walls that welcome us fill me with dread. We’re under the ground, that much my nose tells me. Vyke and I lead the way and our first turn down the stony corridors lead us to a crypt. I read the name and it confirms my heaviness. This is a family crypt belonging to the ones we saw in the house’s painting. Rose’s and Thorn’s parents are dead.
While Vyke, Vayne, Bree, and I continue on, Blue Onesie lingers in the hall of coffins. I try to give him th benefit of the doubt that he won’t cause trouble, but it’s hard. The crypt opens up to a room with a table and chairs. Small alcoves containing bedrolls are off to the side. Vayne and Bree watch the doorways while Vyke and I investigate the alcoves. Vyke lets out a sigh as he looks one bedroll over. “Who do you think these belong too?”
“Not the family, that’s for sure.” I crouch down beside one of the bedrolls and take a few sniffs. It smells of smoke, herbs, and flesh. The scent leads toward the doorway Bree is keeping an eye on. Vyke’s giving me a weirded out look and I frown at him. “This bedroll was recently used. My best estimate is that its owner left it last night.”
“So they could still be down here.” Vayne walks over. Blue Onesie is coming in through the doorway she was guarding. The lizard shakes her head. “I don’t like the feel of this.”
“Me neither,” I admit. It doesn’t makes sense for some Strahd person to invite us to his castle and yet the first thing we come to is this haunted house. “I’m not sure we’ll find any answers here and I’d rather not stumble into anything that would get ourselves killed.”
“We have to keep going.” Vyke gives me a firm look. “We have to help Rose and Thorn. Their spirits don’t deserve to be trapped here.” Vayne and Bree nod in agreement.
I take a deep breath. “Fine. We’ll keep going for the kids.” I turn to Blue Onesie. “Did you find anything?”
He shrugs. “Eh. Found a bunch of moths. Oh, and dear ol’ dad’s not in his coffin.”
The rest of us stare at him. I exchange an uneasy look with Vyke. “You opened the coffin?”
Blue Onesie nods.
“Riiiight…” I take a deep breath and try to tame my anger with this elf. “Because opening a coffin is the first thing you should do while exploring a haunted crypt.”
Blue Onesie perks up. “Exactly!”
Vyke and I both palm our faces. Vayne growls quite menacingly at Blue Onesie. “I’m going to keep a better eye on you.”
“Let’s keep going.” I turn my back to Blue Onesie and point to the doorway opposite from the one we entered. “The people living down here headed that way last.”
Vyke takes the lead and we keep going. The corridors aren’t long. We round another bend and enter a larger room with pillars holding it up. Five outcroppings branch off of it and a different doorway leads to another hall.
“Well,” Bree taps her chin as she looks around. “Five outcroppings, five of us. Everyone pick one, and we’ll…” When she trails off, the rest of us look at her. She’s frowning around the room. “Where did the guy in the onesie go?”
“Curse him!” Vayne snaps. She glares down the hall we just came from. “I bet he doubled back to the coffins. If he gets us killed because he’s messing with things he shouldn’t–”
“We’ll deal with it,” Vyke cuts her off with a sigh. He heads over to one of the alcoves. “Looks like there’s more people living down here than we thought.”
I walk over to a different alcove and frown at the wooden bed sitting within. No people so far, which was a good sign. From the scent of things, they headed further into the crypt like the ones in the room before. Before I step back to the others, I catch sight of a corner under the bed. I smirk. It’s a chest. It’s locked until my morning star breaks it open. Three mossy gemstones lay inside on fine, black cloth. They look rather expensive, so I help myself.
When I leave the alcove, the others are exploring a few of the others. I walk into the one that should’ve been Blue Onesie’s if he was here. Like the first one, there’s a bed and a chest. I break the lock off this chest too and what lays inside has me sucking in my breath. A gleaming short sword made of silver rests within the chest. I can feel its aura immediately. It’s pure silver, no doubt about it. I glance back toward the others. They’re all distracted by their finds in the other room. I don’t trust them all yet, and we’ve still no rhyme or reason why we’re here, and if the people we’re following all have swords like this…
I can’t risk this weapon being used against me. I take the black cloth I found and gingerly wrap the hilt. Thankfully, there’s a leather sheath under the sword so I can safely carry the weapon. I make sure the cloth on the hilt is secure before leaving the alcove.
“You found a sword?” Vyke raises his eyebrows at the new weapon on my side. He comes closer to inspect the weapon and his red eyes glow brighter. “Is that made of silver?”
I shrug. “Yeah.”
“Why did you wrap the handle?”
“Wanted to keep it pretty.”
He raises his eyebrow at me, but doesn’t press the issue. Vayne convinces us to continue on. She and Vyke take the lead and we enter more stony corridors. To keep the air light, Vyke tries to discuss my new weapon further. I dodge a lot of his questions.
From around the corner of a corridor, Blue Onesie jumps out with his hands raised like he’s mimicking some sort of ghoul. I roll my eyes and exchange a look of annoyance with Vayne and Bree. Vyke, on the other hand, nearly jumps out of his skin. He whips around and immediately summons his sword to point at Blue Onesie’s throat. “You idiot!” Vyke shouts. “I could’ve killed you!”
Blue Onesie leans back with laughter. “Oh, you should’ve seen the look on your face!”
“What are you doing?” I shove between Vyke and Blue Onesie so Vyke can’t go off on the elf. “Are you trying to get yourself killed? You shouldn’t be wandering off and starting who knows what trouble!”
“Relax.” Blue Onesie shrugs. “I was just getting more familiar with the dead. I found all the coffins of the parents. Turns out who I thought was dear ol’ dad was some other relative. Mom and dad of the family are safely in their coffins. They’re nothing but bones.”
Vayne swishes her tail in unease. “So, they’ve been dead a while. I figured what happened in the house happened recently.”
I nod in agreement. “The nursemaid was freshly killed. I found her body in a trunk.”
“Then, what about the kids?” Bree’s expression falls grave. “If their parents were dead a while and the nursemaid killed recently…”
Vyke tightens his fists. “We need to find their bodies.”
“I might have already.” Blue Onesie actually uses a serious tone for once. He motions down the corridor. “I found Rose’s and Thorn’s coffins too.”
Vyke’s sword rises back to Blue Onesie’s neck. “You didn’t–”
“Calm down!” Blue Onesie raises his hands. “I didn’t open them, but their names are clear on the side of the coffins.”
I shake my head. “This doesn’t make any sense. The parents have been dead a long time. The kids have been dead long enough to have their own coffins, but the nursemaid was freshly killed?”
“Maybe she was on vacation for a while and came back?” Blue Onesie shrugs. “She could’ve been killed by whoever took up this house after the family’s deaths.”
Doubt lines my lips. I glance at Vyke. I know he isn’t going to like my suggestion. “I want to see the kids’ bodies.”
Vyke lets out a long sigh. “I know…I do to.”