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The Cleansing of Holley House

Page history last edited by Michael 8 months, 3 weeks ago

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events up to 28 Cloudreach Fireday, 9:28 Dragon


Dillen Makurrin


Sunday, 24 Cloudreach


     That morning I received a letter from Pierre, the drunken lout who'd tried to molest Alain. I was to meet him at 2 p.m. at a place called Foggy Meadows -- apparently a traditional place for affairs of honor. The match was to be fought unarmored.

     After exercise and breakfast, I woke Alain the elvish boy, and we took ourselves to the gloomy, grimy house which had belonged to Professor Holley. It was a two-story building, with an attic and basement, in a good part of the city; but the front yard, back area, and even the narrow alleys on either side were cluttered with debris and garbage -- I saw a wagon wheel, old pots, a couple of small cast-iron statues, and other junk in the front yard. A large ash-wagon had been parked in the mews behind the house -- this, and other wagons, would be taken away as we filled them.

     Waiting at the house were my new friends Anton and Philomene. We could not open the front or rear doors, even when they were unlocked -- so Anton nimbly climbed the wall to an upstairs window with open shutters, and entered the house. We heard some curses from him, but after a while the back door of the house swung open and he staggered out into the mews, dirty and  nauseated; a wall of stale, stinking air followed him from the building.

      While Anton, Philomene and I changed into our least-valuable, sturdiest clothing, Alain went to a nearby market, for gloves, aprons, cleaning rags, a shovel and a rake, and other cleaning gear.  Once he returned, we smeared oil of wintergreen on our upper lips, wrapped kerchiefs around our faces, and plunged into the most repulsive, decaying mess I can imagine.


Dillen gave Alain a silver coin to pay for some of the supplies.


     The professor had not thrown out -- or cleaned -- anything for a decade or more. Stacks of plates, with once-moldy remains of meals on them, stood in teetering piles in the kitchen and dining room; wallpaper had peeled from the walls, revealing thick patches of mold in dreary, poisonous colors; the skeletons, bodies, excrement and urine of small animals gave an acrid reek to the air; and dust laid thick on every surface. Professor Holley had taught natural law -- the lore of all living things -- and stuffed animals, skins, bottled samples of nameless animal parts, and reference books were found everywhere.

     Anton swore he had heard a disturbing ... venomous slithering, skittering or scratching ... from within the walls. "Probably rats," I said, and as we trod heavily on the wooden floors, the rest of us certainly heard nothing that morning. We were more upset by the darkness, the atrocious stench, and the foul textures of rot, decay, corrosion and fungal growth. We lit a few candles to shed some light.

     Iven was to pay each of us five silver coins a day for clearing out the junk; he also paid for the wagons. After five days, the pay and wagons would cease; but we would be able to live in the building for about six weeks after that. My heart sank and my gorge rose at the thought of staying in this sty, even if emptied, for any amount of time. But, a promise is a promise!

     Philomene found a ring of seven keys in a drawer -- hopefully this would make access easier. A sack of sprouted potatoes was set aside by my friends as a possible meal, however I swore privately to never let any food from this house into my mouth.

     A comely neighbor, Hope, spoke with Philomene, and approved of our efforts in cleaning the house; she watched from a window-balcony of her home with approval as we bore broken furniture, bales of rotten upholstery, and other noxious trash out to the ash-wagons.


salvage from Sunday morning





  • a 3'x4' piece of hide from an august ram, in decent condition

  • a bolt of periwinkle blue linen, 4 yds x 48"

  • a bolt of plaideweave, yellow and black, 4 yards by 36"

  • a finely-decorated pendant, of silver and copper

  • a standard healing potion

  • a crystal griffon, 3" tall

  • a figurine of armored Andraste, silver accented with copper and gold, 5" tall

  • a dragon bone brooch, carved into the form of a dragon's head with one wing also revealed as an accent; 2" tall

  • a balm of some sort, white in color

  • an obsidian cameo, 2" across, showing a lovely woman

  • a carved lapis goblet

  • a very nice cauldron, volume 14 quarts, including a lid. This was an alchemical tool. Inside the cauldron was a bundle of "Andraste's Grace" flower stems, and a note:  "Add this to the mixture to strengthen the dose."

    • if it's cast iron, diameter about 12" across, weight 23.5 pounds

  • a grappling hook and rope in decent condition

  • a jar of balm, which Alain identified as Spirit Balm


      We stopped work around noon, cleaned up, dressed in our better clothing, ate a quick lunch, and headed to the Foggy Meadow (aka the Bloody Meadow). Pierre was not present -- but Guy-Alexandre was. Anton was to act as my second; Guy-Alexandre for Pierre; Alain opened up his kit of first aid (and barbering) equipment.

      After a few minutes, Pierre rode up on a horse; he seemed unwell (possibly hung over). He stumbled a bit when dismounting. He spoke with Guy-Alexandre for a few minutes, while Dillen limbered up. Guy came over, and spoke with Anton, who in turn told Dillen, "Pierre is not well -- would you agree to face Guy-Alexandre as a substitute?" I agreed, glad to fight a duel this day.

      I thus faced Guy-Alexandre, while Pierre scowled from a seat on a stump. We saluted and began -- but I was soon aware I faced a better swordsman, even though he wielded only a short-sword. After a couple of passes, he closed quickly with me, brought the guard of his weapon across my forehead, and knocked the blade from my hands! I fell stunned to the ground -- defeated.

      As Alain tended to my dented skull, Guy-Alexandre withdrew, spoke a few words with Anton, and then helped Pierre mount into his saddle. Despite sympathetic words from my friends, I felt very humbled.

      On the way back to our noxious work-site, we passed by the Maison la Harmonie, to see if I had been selected as a lodger. Alas, "With the greatest of thanks to our recent guests, the draw has fallen upon Pierre (last name) to become a resident within these walls."

      We returned to the house of Professor Holley; between the smell of the place, and the knock on my head, I was briefly very sick -- Alain passed me a cup of water with some soothing herbs mixed into it.  We continued our chores ...


salvage from Sunday afternoon





  • a dead cat, still "moist"

  • a silver figure of maternal Andraste, about 3" tall, matching the "armored Andraste" which Alain had found

  • a drake totem, carved from purple nevarrite, 4" tall

  • a fine and serviceable candle lantern, intricately formed from brass, with three mirrors inside to direct the light

  • a regular healing potion

  • a glowstone

  • a dwarven-made dinner plate

  • a nicely-folded set of linen bed-sheets, size "full"


  • a damp clump of brown and black rags


     We also found a couple of mummified cats. While we had seen mouse and cat droppings and urine, we had not seen any of the small creatures ... "They must be hiding in the walls."

     We laid off work just before sunset, were each paid 5 silver coins by one of Iven's clerks, the last wagon left, and we visited a local bath-house to scrub ourselves clean.


  • a hot bath costs 10 copper

  • a room with a bed in the Lion's Feathers costs 2 silver per night; a very hearty meal (not "the best") at that inn might cost 60 copper


The Lion's Feathers


     This inn is popular with students and visitors at the University. The wine-cellar is well-stocked, and the best meal costs about 1 silver per person (not including wines).

     The atmosphere is very cosmopolitan; dwarves, elves and Fereldans might be found in the dining-room.


      Alain and Anton chose to set up their tentage at Holley's house, both to save funds and to watch over the salvaged goods; they obtained food from stalls at the market. I returned to the Lion's Feathers; to my slight surprise, Philomene asked to stay with me. She showed a modest chastity that I had not expected from Orlesian ladies, and even laid my blade on the bed between us! My head still ached from the blow I'd gotten from Guy-Alexandre, and the glass of wine I'd had for dinner seemed to have made the pain worse; and in any case there were other fish in the sea.

     I fell asleep thinking, "Perhaps Guy can show me that trick with the guard of his sword ... "


Moonday, 25 Cloudreach


     I decided not to perform my habitual exercises in the morning, as removing old furniture seemed quite the muscle-building task. At Holley's house, we continued to remove garbage and detritus; some valuables were unearthed.


salvage from Moonday morning





  • a normal healing potion

  • a tooth-shaped lapis


  • a healing poultice

  • a finely-made tortoise-shell brush

  • a wooden Dalish wolf figurine

  • a lockpick (+2 due to maserwork)

  • a roll-top desk in decent condition; the many small drawers held much garbage, though

  • a maple dresser, with brass fittings and inlays


     We reached the kitchen after lunch -- Philomene set to work cleaning stacks of dishes and cook-pots. The house had once been the home of a family.


salvage from Moonday afternoon





  • a toothbrush in perfect condition


  • a fine filigree platinum dragonfly pendant

  • a miniature palanquin, made of 14k gold and silk velvet, about 3" or 4" long

  • a canvas bag with a bolt of darkened samite cloth, 10 yds by 36" wide

  • 2 very serviceable oil lamps

  • 4 wooden spoons in good condition


  • a potion-holster, of brown leather, holding five small potions. 2 of the potions were yellow (Stamina), 2 were blue (Mana), and 1 was red (Healing).

  • a lovely 3 carat garnet

  • from the kitchen windows:  4 un-stained curtains



     We realized later that the potion holster was magical! As long as the bottles were replaced, they would refill overnight.


Tearsday, 26 Cloudreach


     Back at the Holley house!


salvage from Tearsday





  • a serviceable goose-down pillow


  • a glass halla figurine

  • a gold compass, engraved, about 1" diameter

  • a 40 year old bottle of Antivan wine (8:88 Blessed vintage)

  • a fine mahogany box, with inlaid runes on the sides; it's 9" x 12" z 1", and held illustrated pages (of strange vegetables). The box has a Preservation spell on it.

  • a small nug totem, carved from agate



      I made an extra effort at washing-up after work this day, and asked Alain to tend to my hair -- in the evening I was a guest at Lady Fae's home. While the presence of the odious Pierre at dinner was no pleasure, later pleasures in the arms of Lady Fae more than compensated for the dinner.

      Anton discussed bows and archery with Alain ...


Windsday, 27 Cloudreach


     Our labors at the polluted house had now moved to the upstairs. On the stair-steps, on the floors, and on book shelves, we saw many obscure reference books. Philomene said that Professor Brookstone (with twelve years of tenure at the University) might be interested in some of the books.


salvage from Windsday









  • 5 Fish books




  • some furniture

  • a lacquer box, 10" x 8" x 6", with tiny runes ... it's another Preservation box! Inside the box were two large eggs, along with a strangely-thick, very large feather


      We realized that Professor Holley had been placing Warding Salts on his window- and door-sills; the remnants were quite thick in some areas. Also, someone had broken into the house at some point -- that was how the upstairs window-shutter had been loosened.

      There had still been no sightings of mice, rats or cats, though we still heard animals moving within the walls from time to time.


Fireday, 28 Cloudreach


     Most of the floor space of the ground floor and first floor were now clear -- we could open windows and shutters and the front door. The attic was fortunately mostly empty -- it had no load-bearing floor, and the professor had not stored anything up there.

     We had gathered loose change totaling about 130 silver pieces in value -- most of this was in Orlesian bronze pennies, thousands of them. A couple of jars and boxes were now filled with the coins.

     This was the last day that Iven would be paying us to clean the house, and the last day that wagons would be paid by Iven to carry off garbage. Time to clear out the basement! We lit various lamps, put on our armor and weapons, and descended the stairs. I led the way, followed closely by Anton -- Philomene and Alain brought up the rear.

     The basement seemed to be a single large room, with some stone pillars supporting the upper floors and chimneys. It was filled, top to bottom, with spider webs, some of considerable strength and thickness!

     I hung my lantern on a nail and pushed into the webs. Almost immediately spiders appeared, each with a body the size of a dog, and with legs a couple of feet long. Their eyes glowed palely, and their mouth parts clattered hungrily; there were at least a half-dozen of them. We now knew why there were no living animals upstairs!

     A pair of the arachnids lunged at me; I could hear my comrades calling out in anger! I was bitten quite soon, and learned that the spiders' venom made my movements sluggish -- the wound was quite painful, as well. Anton was swinging his blade as well; Philomen and Alain had staves or rakes, to smack the hideous foes. Anton was also bitten a couple of times, as a very large "queen" spider appeared. Alain rushed forward with a rake, and brought it down hard on the queen spider's head -- what a brave boy!

     Someone -- it must have been Philomene -- cast an Arcane Lance spell at the spiders. Questions later, spider-killing now!

     Both myself and Anton had been bitten multiple times by spiders -- not every bite bore venom, but we were still feeling their effect. Spiders darted along the beams, slipped among the webs, and even created more webs to try and entangle us. Philomene passed out a couple of healing potions to Anton and myself, but the surging, snapping monsters were bearing us down. I heard Alain shrieking, "Take that!" as he brought the rake down again and again on spiders vulnerable backs. He was fighting beside myself and Anton -- the lad was born to kill monsters!

     The queen spider was killed by Anton, but the others kept snapping at us. Philomene cast another spell, and Alain kept cracking spider-heads with the rake. He shouted, "Upstairs! Go upstairs!" but it was too late -- I had fallen to the floor, with a spider's fangs embedded in my thigh, sucking blood. The voices of my friends were muffled, and my vision grew dark. "Get off my friend!" cried the elf, and I felt a jolt as the spider on my leg was crushed by the elf's rake.

     The next thing I remember is being helped up the stairs from the basement by Anton and Philomene; we limped out to the street. Alain bandaged our wounds, and reassured us that the spiders' venoms were not permanent in effect. After resting for a while, I was able to walk about again.

     Alain told us he'd seen a cocooned skeleton and blue skin of a snoufleur in the basement ... along with a few more small spiders still alive in that cursed chamber!


Dillen is down 17 Health at this point.


Alain Adale


The Last Week of Cloudreach


   Lord Dillen awoke me earlier than my wont and rushed me through getting dressed and a bite to eat. He seemed quaintly certain I would wish to join him cleaning out a filthy house and as it happened, I did decide to try it for a day upon learning we would each receive a fee of five silver for our efforts.  The home in question belonged to a recently deceased professor of natural history. Located in a good part of the city, the house was easily in the worst repair for blocks around. Windows and doors were boarded shut, the yard overgrown and filled with odds and ends, discards accumulated over decades of neglect. 

   Upon closer inspection, what looked like junk included many small treasures - glass bottles, herbs left to grow wild, and many serviceable items that only needed some cleaning before they were fit to sell. While Lord Anton tried to enter through an upstairs window, Lady Philomene and I began to set aside the salvageable items. We had to work fast as Lord Dillen was very industrious about gathering up everything in reach and tossing it into the junk wagon. 

   Lord Anton came out of the house, complaining about the smell. I offered to run over to the nearest market and acquire aprons and other cleaning gear. While I was there, I met a dwarven merchant named Karl who hinted that he might be able to get "dwarven minerals" for me.  I promised to come back later in the week, gathered the goods needed and returned to Holley House. 




Anton Pentaghast




Philomene Bettancourt de Castillon




Some commentary and plans after the end of this episode

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