Darkness started to fall as we approached the farmstead. Looking around with the last of the light I took stock in the makeup of the farm. 3 Large barns, 2 large stables, what looked more like a plantation style farmhouse surrounded by several smaller homes. The entire farmstead was enclosed in a short wooden fence, that looked more like it was designed to keep animals in rather than keep anything large out. As I looked over the area I was stuck with the sudden memory that this farm could have existed in my old life, it looked like what people would consider a large farmstead anywhere. Basically nothing unique or special, just a basic multifamily farm. As we approached the wall Thoven waved us down and motioned for silence.
'Listen up, we will only have 1 chance at this and I do not want to waste it.' Motioning for us to move back he looked over at our earth mage, 'Claire when I give the single I need you to quickly and quietly open the wall. Try your best to not make any sound.' Claire nodded and Thoven looked over at the rest of us. 'Once she gets the wall open we move quickly into the compound, move to the large barn close by and keep quiet.' With that, we began our assault.
With several hand motions and some words of power, Claire cast a modify earth spell, one designed to affect wood. That simple spell forced the wood that made up the wall to warp and change shape. With her power, a large opening appeared in the wall allowing our access to the yard. With a wave of his hands, Thoven signaled our crossing through the wall and our entering the yard. As we moved the light of the day continued to dim and I began to worry about issues that could occur due to not being able to see clearly. While I knew we had enough power to light up the yard my fear was the unknown. I understood that in combat seconds could change the outcome of a battle and time was not on our side. While it was true that we did not know the full details of what happened we were safe to assume the people on the farmstead meant us harm.
QUEST COMPLETE: First real fight
After years of training, you will finally put it to use
REWARD: Experience in war.
After crossing the yard and regathering near one of the barns we began our movement toward the main building. Thoven took the lead While I kept near the back of the formation. Approaching the main house we neared a rear door and Thoven signaled us to remain still while he cast a simple spell to listen for sounds from beyond the doorway. hearing nothing he slowly tried to door and found it to be unlocked. Opening it quietly he signaled for us to follow him in. Entering the home we found ourselves in what I would guess to be a servant entrance. As we passed through the hallway Thoven had our earth mage cast spells to warp the doors to the side rooms locking in anyone in them to keep them out of our way. While that wasn't a perfect answer it would buy us time to plan if something happened.
Moving forward we came to another door. Again Thoven spelled the door listening for sounds. When none were heard he opened the door. Moving through we found ourselves entering a dining room. What struck me first was the food, one look and it was obvious that someone was preparing for dinner. The tables were set, food that was now cold we on the table and cups still full of drink sat in cups. All that was missing were the people. Moving across the room we approached a door on the other side, opening it with care we entered into a large and open living room. So far we've found neither the homeowners nor the bodies of our troops. Moving to the other side of the living room we entered a hall that seemed to lead to both stairs up and the front door. Thoven motioned for us to move to the stairs and we start to climb the starts to the second and only other floor. Once we reached the landing our options were to enter the large door across from the stairs or we take either a left or a right hall.
Thoven decided to approach the door in front of us. Taking a moment to listen he opened the door and quickly walked into the room which like the rest of the house we found empty. Backing out we took the left hall and searched another 9 rooms to the side, all empty. Retracing our steps we checked the rooms down the right hall and again found no living being. At that Thoven motioned for us to gather. 'Something is not right here, there should be dozens of people living in this home.' Looking around Thoven continued 'We will look for access to a basement and if we cannot find evidence of what occurred here we will seal the house and head to the next outpost to report and ask for additional supporting troops to return with.' Getting up he led the way back down the stairs and began to look for access to the basement. Finding a route down only took a few minutes, stairs were located in both the kitchen and off the main hall in the front of the home. The decision was made to use the kitchen stairs due to the idea that it would probably be less used by anyone important living in the home.
Moving down the stairs we approached a door at the bottom and after checking the door we slowly opened it and entered the basement. The first thing that stood out was the light. The basement was well lit and bright, whatever was going on down here the occupants wanted to be able to see well. Off the kitchen entrance, we found a short hall with 2 doors to the side which after checking led to simple storage rooms full of foodstuff. At the end of the hall was another door that we assumed let to the rest of the basement. As we neared the door Thoven signaled us to stop, in a quiet voice he told us that he could hear sounds from the other side and to make ready. Quickly swinging the door open we charge into the room to a sight that to this day still troubles my sleep. Hanging by chains from the ceiling were our missing people, stripped bare of everything including their skin. Not only had they been killed but someone what skinned them and then it appeared they removed the organs from the bodies as well. These were actions of something or someone evil. Everyone in our group froze in shock and looking at Thoven we saw a look on his face that was well reflected upon our own.
Looking around the room we noticed a single large door on the other side. We also noticed that this room was very well lit, to the point of being hard on the eyes. Someone wanted to be able to see their work without any shadow or dark spot. This room was almost set up as a display case where someone was showing off their pride and joy. Something was wrong here, very wrong and I began to think this place was well beyond us and our ability to handle it.