In which the heroes visit a haunted house in search of family treasure
Marco’s grandfather, Cranston, invites the group to Fredericksburg for an overnight occult investigation. While searching the old family home, they encounter more than one threat and discover the truth behind the Solerno family fortune.
Cranston is a member of a scholarly occult group called the New Occult Society. He and a few of his Society friends intend to spend the night in the Solerno family home, which has not been lived in for decades, but of which, he is the caretaker. They are searching for a family heirloom belonging to Marco’s great, great grandmother (Cranston’s grandmother). It is said to be lost or hidden somewhere within the old homestead, and most importantly, to be the key to the family fortune.
The group intends to use Marco’s magic to search the house, and also hold a séance to try and contact their Solerno ancestors, namely Asanath Solerno, the grandmother in question.
The PCs (Marco, Claire, and Charles) pack up and head to Fredericksburg where they meet Cranston’s friends and fellow society members:
- Samantha Tate, a young, attractive lawyer who is an attentive listener with a penchant for repeating things said to her.
- Edgar Vaughn, a greying, middle-aged philosophy professor who has become a bit cynical in his widowed years.
- Bethany Fox, a wealthy housewife of an investment banker who likes her vodka a little too much.
The group carpools from Cranston’s townhome to the Solerno estate out in the country. The large, gothic-style manor house is only a little rundown in spite of its age. Cranston lets them in and they set out to explore. Over the course of the evening, lots of things happen.
Several times, Marco or Cranston see a ghostly woman walking through the house. Cranston recognizes her as Asanath Solerno. The apparition ignores them and appears to be wandering the house.
During their explorations, members of the group are spooked by slamming doors, wailing moans, and unseen presences. They eventually discover and capture an imp – a small demonic creature. It has been living in the house, feeding off of a dark, energy present in the house. They manage to capture the imp and imprison it in a circle of power atop the table they were using for the séance.
With the threat contained, Marco casts a location spell to search for the heirloom jewelry. His spell leads him into the cellar. Marco, Claire, Cranston, and Samantha go in search of the treasure, while Charles, Bethany, and Edgar remain upstairs to keep an eye on the imp.
Upstairs, the imp starts causing trouble, taunting his captors. It plays on Edgar’s fear and self-doubt first. Bethany, more than a little drunk, steps up to slap Edgar around and keep him under control. Charles takes action by throwing shuriken at the imp. They do it no real harm and it, in turn, throws one start back at Charles and the other at Bethany, who was responding to its taunts with insults of her own. Unfortunately, the shuriken lands home in her eye, and she goes down.
Downstairs, the group finds a secret hallway and a sealed door. Marco unlocks the door with his magic and they enter a bedroom containing the corpse of his great-great grandmother chained to a bed. The corpse wears the same gown that the ghost wears, confirming its identity. And around her neck is the legendary Jewel of Solerno.
They are also greeted by her guardian, an undead creature known as a Grave Guardian (found in the Fantasy Companion, p. 124), which rose up through the floor in a mist. The creature was once a man but now moved with an otherworldly speed and strength, and attacked with vicious claws. Further, it could move about the room by sinking back into the floor and rising up elsewhere. The battle was fast and fierce, with all four people facing the beast. They finally pinned it against the wall with a fireplace poker and Marco grabbed the jewel from his ancestor’s neck. Once he held the jewel, he felt it pulsing with energy. The ghost of Asanath appeared to the gathered PCs and NPCs, and told her story.
Asanath and her husband, also named Marco – and at this, the ghost looks forlornly at the undead guardian – made a pact with a demon to ensure the success of their family. The success would last down the generations. But as all demonly deals go, there was a catch. Asanath was cursed to never leave this room and never die, so long as the pact continued. And upon the event of her death, the pact would be sundered and her descendants would have to fend for themselves in the world.
Meanwhile, her husband made a pact of his own with the demon. He wanted to stay with her to love and protect her for all time. And so, he did until the day he died, at which point he rose from the grave and returned as her undead guardian. But now, Marco had come to free them both from the curse, and claim his birthright in the form of the Solerno Jewel. It would help him hone his abilities as a wizard.
The Marco and Cranston said goodbye to their ancestor and Marco torched her corpse, freeing her to move on the afterlife at last.
At this point, as the group is about to leave the room, they hear Bethany’s scream from upstairs. Claire and Samantha run to see what’s going on, leaving the men to their own thoughts. They arrive to find Edgar holding Bethany’s head in his lap, the woman having finally fallen unconscious from the shock of having a shuriken where her eye used to be.
Claire does her best to heal Bethany’s injury, but the damage is too severe, even for Claire’s powers. Still, she does what she can and wound heals and closes, but the eye is dead and Bethany can no longer see through it. Claire breathed a sigh of both regret and relief. Regret that she was unable to truly heal the other woman. And relief that the emergency was over and things would now settle down for the night. Until, from the other room, Marco said, “Claire…we have a little problem.”
As Marco and Cranston prepare to head upstairs, they hear a noise from the other end of the secret hallway. Marco investigates and finds…Charles tied up and gagged at the bottom of a ladder leading up to a trap door. But Charles is upstairs with the other group…where Claire just ran to in response to a scream.
Cautiously, Marco removes the gag from this Charles and asks for an explanation. Earlier, Charles had taken stroll around the grounds to make sure there were no threats hiding in the bushes. Whilst doing so, he was attacked by someone who looked just like himself. An exact duplicate. Despite his best efforts, he was overwhelmed and knocked unconscious. He awoke here, bound, gagged, battered, and bruised. Unsure what to do, Marco untied the battered Charles and they went upstairs.
Now the whole group is together and they find themselves with an extra leprechaun. The upstairs Charles (Charles 1) responds to the downstairs Charles’ (Charles 2) story with disgust. According to him, HE is the real Charles and HE won the fight. He tied up the attacker and dumped him down a secret entrance to the house that he had just discovered when he was attacked.
The interrogation that follows is intense, but the Marco and Claire decide that Charles 1 is indeed the real McCoy, and luckily, they are correct. The impostor reveals himself to be a doppel – a fairy creature capable of changing its appearance to imitate others. He was sent by Esmeralda, the fairy queen, to deliver an important message to Claire. But upon arriving, he saw the leprechaun (Charles) and just could not resist a little sport. “So sorry, to be sure. But it was a long journey and I was bored.”
As for the message, Pip has been captured by the fairies and is being tried by the Tribunal for crimes against Fairy Kind. Her life is in danger and Esmeralda thought Claire should know and probably intervene. At once.
Now the group has to wrap up their stay at the house. Cranston makes a bargain with the imp. It has been living here for several months and has done a good job chasing off curious visitors, so if it is willing to watch over the place in that way, it is welcome to stay, so long as it doesn’t kill anyone. The imp agrees to the terms, but warns that with the original demon pact now undone, the energy that drew here will fade, which means it might leave at any time.
Marco and Cranston have a final conversation, and the PCs leave, racing back to the Braun Estate so that Claire can use the fairy circle to travel to the Nevernever. Cranston’s group heads back to his place to debrief from this brush with the supernatural and near-death.
As usual, this story was played over two sessions. It was a lot of fun because I got to use a lot of classic horror shticks, thanks to the devilish imp and his powers of illusion. When the party first faced him, he made himself look similar to Hellboy, which had the players really worried. Later, once they had him captured in the circle of power, they considered moving the table – with the imp trapped on it’s top – to another room.
And then there was the group of foolhardy NPCs, a real ghost, a revenant to battle, a real secret family history, and of course, the fun of the doppelganger in their midst. I kept piling it on as fast as the ideas came to me. I hope the other players enjoyed this scenario as much as I did!