Snail's Trail

The professor's house

It’s early on a Wednesday, and the Great Hall is even more abandoned than usually. Lady Leather and Jackie Jackal are gone, off at their jobs. Danny Brewer is cleaning behind the bar before heading off to cook for the lunch rush at whatever restaurant he cooks at. The Amoeba is off doing whatever it is the Amoeba does during the day.

You sit as a group at the only occupied table, discussing how much the world has changed, and brainstorming ideas for your futures.

Rufus walks in, leading Ruth. They head over to Danny and a low voiced conversation ensues, with Danny firmly and repeatedly shaking his head “no”. After a moment Ruth walks away from him. She pauses for a moment, staring blindly off at nothing, then turns and walks over to your table.

“Are you guys busy today? I’ll lend you my car if you do me a favor, Danny’s too busy to drive me.”

<<hank>>

Ruth amongst the Changelings and Agatha to mortals, she is a tiny thing, bird boned and frail. If she weighs more than one hundred pounds you’d be shocked. Her red curls are frizzy today and look a bit unkempt. She is wearing a soft blue button up dress and a pair of sensible black slip ons. The bandana that covers her eyes is clean, white and starkly bare.

Hank: <<southern>> “Well I dunno there Strawberry Shortcake, been kinda long a week. We sorta favor ya lookin fer?”

Ruth: “I have a friend in South Bend who seems to have gone missing. People are saying that he’s involved in something nefarious, but I know he’s not that sort of person… Also, I have this feeling like he’s in trouble, and it’s getting worse. If I give you his address, his alarm code and tell you where he hides his spare key will you go to his place and look around? See if you can figure out what sort of trouble he’s gotten himself into?”

Hank: “Ya must be pretty good buddies, ya seem to know alotta bout ‘im. Souf Bend, dats dem Irish country aint it? I don’t mean to talk down to ya there cupcake…” <<giggle>> “…But I’m not exactly a set of car keys, its not like people aint gonna notice Big Country slippin into a house.”

Ruth: “He likes his privacy, there is a big fence around his property. If you go in through the garage no one will notice you.”

Hank: “Well, so long as you don’t be thinkin I’m gonna be stickin out like a sore thumb….I dunno, seems kinda sketchy to me. Just sittin here talkin bout it has me more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin chairs….tell ya wuuut. I’m a lil strapped for cash. Get me another one of deez here beers to relax the nerves, and I’ll chew it on over.”

She clucks softly to her dog, then heads back to the bar. She hands Danny some cash and he gives her a six pack from the back. She brings it over to you, walking very carefully, not really lift her feet, just shuffling along slowly. You get the feeling that she falls often, and is used to breaking fragile things when she carries them.

Hank: “Ya’ll right there teacup? Ya look bout as nervous as a fag eatin a hotdog in front of his parents”

Ruth: “I just don’t like carrying glass. I don’t much like fires either.” She hands you the beers.

Hank: “Fair ‘nuff. Well seeins how yall been so hospitable…and fer the beers, I reckon I’d be willin to help ya out. I aint never been too good at the secret squirrel shit, but I an drive a pickup real good. I don’t speak for deez folks though…”

Ruth: “Thank you.” She pulls a memo pad out of her purse, and use the fingers of her free hand to keep her pen in line as she writes down an address, the alarm code, and a manual code for opening the garage door. “He has one of those plastic owls for scaring little animals in his garage. The spare house key is inside it.”

Hank: <<takes>> “whelp…waddaya think?”

Uffe: Ulfbjörn quietly watches the exchange between the massive bulk of a man and the waify redhead. He blinks, the last seconds of the conversation coming to bear on him. He had only been half-listening as he had been lost in thought about whether Rufus understands that Ruth is blind or what conception he might have about her. But when the note is dropped before the group with melodramatic flair, he begins to smile. “Ja, let’s find out what is going on. I just love a good mystery!” he states excitedly.

Hank drives Ruth SUV to the address she indicated. It’s a bit more than an hour drive.

The good professor owned a house. It’s a cozy little two bedroom home painted a faded shade of yellow. The front yard is about the size of a king comforter and the back yard is shaped like an “L” to provide space for the garage. A concrete path runs from the side door to the garage, but the space on either side of the yard is beautifully landscaped with brightly colored flowers blooming. The only thing out of place are the milk pods scattered heavily through the flowers as if they belong. Tall fences run along the sides and back of the yard. You cannot see out and no one could possibly see in. In the garage you find banker’s boxes and copy paper boxes stacked so that only one car will fit. Hank dropped Uffe, Vivienne and Adam off at the house and drove the SUV to a nearby gas station where he parked it and waited for them to call. Sifting through those boxes the party found what seemed to be the entire worldly goods of a woman. They suspected these were the belongings of Booker’s dead wife.

The party entered the house through the side door, which took them into an alcove beside the kitchen. Directly in front of them was the door to the basement.

The other door from the kitchen lead to the living room. The couch is white and the walls are a soft lavender. You can see into the kitchen on your left and the dining room just beyond the living room, only a half wall separates the two. Pictures hang on every wall framed in pure white that matches the rooms trim and decor. Every one of them is of a beautiful blond girl. A few of the older ones show her with a woman, but most are of her alone. In the most recent seeming pictures she looks like she might be eleven. Opening the frame and looking at the back of the pictures showed that they were labeled. The little girl is Jenna. The woman is Charlotte. In the newest pictures the girl looks to be about 11.

The dining room lets you into a hall. Directly in front of you is a girl’s bedroom. The walls are painted in a beautiful mural of lilacs. A white canopy hovers over a queen sized bed, gauzy drapes dripping down like something out of a princess’s castle. Everything in here is white and lacy or purple and flowery. Giant stuffed animals stand guard over the bed while their smaller brethren and dolls line the walls. They watched out of dead glass eyes as you poke about through tiny lacy panties.

To the left is a small bathroom and to the right is another bedroom. Wood paneling hides the walls here and a heavy red comforter rests on the twin sized bed. There isn’t room for much else, this bedroom is less than half the size of the other one.

The basement is a finished study walled in bookcases. A large desk holds pride of place in the center of the room. A small waste basket sits next to it, half full of crumpled papers. An iMac and a desk lamp sit on top of the desk. The drawers are full of what look like student papers. Each is a thick stack, two dozen pages minimum. The first one is titled “A history of pronoun usage from middle English to modern times”. You read through it, struggling to pay close attention, but when you are done you cannot remember a word that you read. You feel muzzy headed and stupid, as if the brain cells you tried to force that information into committed suicide rather than retain it. There are little post it notes full of the professor’s handwriting all over the papers in his drawers. There are also a series of notes stuck to his computer. Mostly simple things. He seems to have not trusted his memory. Tracking back through his papers showed that the notes started Fall of 2010. Anything older than that either never had post it notes stuck to it, or has had them removed.

The three partial letters from below are in the trash can. He was in the process of hand caligraphying them before he wadded then up and threw them away. THE COMPLETED LETTER IS THE MOST RECENT DOCUMENT ANYONE HAS WORKED ON IN THE COMPUTER. The other documents in the computer seem to all be related to the classes he teaches or the students whose thesis and dissertation boards he is on.

A large sectional couch sits across from a complex entertainment system at the far end of the room. Screens are recessed into the ceiling. They can be pulled down in front of the bookshelves and used to close of the part of the room where the couch is. Vivienne found these while poking around the room.

Two doors lead out of this room, one to a more extravagant bathroom than the one upstairs and the other opens into a laundry room beyond which you find the boiler and furnace. The bins near the washer hold patterned furniture covers that can go over the various parts of the sectional to change the way it looks and bits of scenery. A cabinet over the washer holds a variety of adult sized masks. The one over the dryer contains laundry detergent and supplies.

The entertainment system is wired to a computer. Almost any electronic device you can imagine is a part of this set-up. You need a password to log in. There are projectors, cameras and a pair of professional quality movie cameras.

Rolling 7 successes Uffe found a false panel in the desk directly across from the chair. Inside is a picture album. Do you remember Jon Bennett Ramsey and those child beauty pageant pictures of her that were everywhere for a while? Imagine those crossed with a playboy magazine. Also, there was a small piece of paper. With a riddle on it.

A table you won’t sit at,
With nobles on one side.
Gold and silver on it,
That none can steal or hide.
He and I are there to find -
A universal guide.

Uffe immediately solves the riddle, having no problem recognizing that is a reference to the periodic table. Looking around the room he sees a book on that subject in the bookshelf directly behind him. When he picks it up something within the bookshelf clicks and it swivels out revealing the only mirror in the house

Stepping through the mirror took you to an area beyond the hedge. You followed a long narrow hall until it suddenly widened. Before you was a double door. On each of the doors was a sculpted face with its mouth open. Beneath each face was a riddle:

Heads were crushed beneath the wheel,
As they died they formed a meal,
Cast they were as into hell,
A staff was formed with auburn shell.
Best break it into pieces few,
For when its served it does serve you.
Yield this treasure unto my teeth,
Lofty wisdom I’ll then bequeath.

From the heavens and from below
In all who live but does not grow.
It flies, it runs, it falls, it creeps
It runs away from he who weeps.
For some a road, for some it’s home
For many death when it should roam.
Give unto me this substance clean
And mighty powers will be seen.

Vivienne and Uffe correctly deduced that these riddle referenced bread and water. Adam ran upstairs to the kitchen to get some of both and placing the items into the mouths of the statues caused the doors to open.

Beyond the double doors you entered a combination study and work room. Books and papers lay scattered about, almost all of them have notes written in the professors cramped cursive through out their margins. He was clearly a big one for writing down his thoughts so that he would not forget them. There are many gaps in the shelves, but no dust on them, in sharp contrast to the items around them, some of which are quite dusty. It is pretty clear that someone went through this room with some speed, taking several items with them when they left. The desk is completely bare except for a single note (Plan B). Some one else wrote the note, but the professor’s notes run down the side of it.

From the garbage can:

Michael,
I will never aid anyone who had any responsibility for what happened to Jenna

Michael,
I cannot believe that you expect me to continue on with my work for you after

Michael,
How dare you

From the computer:

Michael,
I understand how important my work with the hedge is to you. New Changelings often settle in the town into which they first re-emerge into the world, and making South Bend more accessible to new changeling could significantly swell the ranks of your people. However, my step-daughter’s recent accident sits heavily in my thoughts. Drive by shootings like this one were rare in the past, and I never thought that I would feel the pain of this sort of incident. As you have reminded me so recently, she was only a human girl, but she was all I had. I returned to this world with nothing. My wife gave me everything before dying in that accident, and my Jenna was all I had to cling to after her mother left me. Though she was not my blood she was my heart and soul. Your feud with Charles means nothing to me next to the pain, despite your reminder that I should ‘focus on the bigger picture’. This is the last missive you will receive from me.
Booker

Plan B

1. Alter the Hedge My way, not Michael’s. He forgets that he is not MY king.

2. Hide the Artifact I’ll just return it to the mound. It certainly took me long enough to find it there.

3. Complete the doses The PerP is a difficult potion. I shall have to be careful doing this elsewhere.

4. Meet me beneath the boughs I hope it never comes to this. Any separation from you is terror greater than your anger, My Queen.

AAAAaaaaannnnnnnnddddd IIIIIIeeeeeeIIIII

Map 1: Chain O’Lakes State Park

There are three notes written on this map.

Standing alone,
No place to hide,
Bearer of visions,
Dreams I provide.
Girded in armor,
To touch me is pain
My arms to the heavens
Praying for rain.


I fell here
Through a hole in the sky
Left, right, left, right

Haiku are hard.
Does my Queen like haiku?
Did I never ask, or have I forgotten?

Map 2: Ouabache State Park

There is one note written on this map.

I die in flames of gold and red.
In cold white ash I stand there dead.
‘Till life again flows through my veins,
And youth recloaks my bare remains.
A solemn phoenix I exist,
‘Till different flames I can’t resist,
Consume me to the very core,
And dead I lie forever more.

Map 3: Potato Creek State Park

There are 6 written areas on this map.

At sixteen hands
I’ve carried brands
And helped to drive the cattle.

I’ve danger shared
When, war declared,
I’ve turned the tide of battle.

When Helen’s lips
Launched many ships
With thousands came I thither.

But never Troy
Could Greeks destroy
‘Till I did them deliver

Remember to bring the cleaners!

Crossing is as easy as 1-2-3

Map 4: Mississinewa Lake

There is one note written on this map.

I often find myself wondering about the being who designed these hollows. Who were these dangerous puzzles supposed to keep out? Who were they supposed to let in? It seems like such a lot of effort to go to, A Hollow for each artifact, unique deterrents to random visitors… perhaps I will know soon. This is the last of the State Parks. The Chalice must be here.

Map 5: The Mound

This map is different from the others. Rather than being a part of a pamphlet it is a print up from a computer map service. The only thing written on it is “The Mound” next to an X. Vivienne looks this place up online while Uffe calls Hank and the rest of the party dump things out of boxes in the garage, fill the boxes with the professor’s books and load them into the SUV. Uffe speaks to the professor’s nosey neighbor, Mary Martin and learns about Jenna’s death in a drive by shooting at the nearby park which injured Booker. He also learned that Mary made Jenna’s pageant gowns. Vivienne learned that the area around the mound was deserted years ago when waste from an industrial facility tainted the ground water. The company declared bankruptcy rather than deal with it. No government agency was willing to foot the bill to clean it up and the whole town has been abandoned since then. The mound itself was abandoned years earlier when it was set aside as a possible location for historical artifacts but never investigated.

The party took the books back to the Great Hall and decided to head immediately to the Mound. They stacked the boxes in piles around everyone’s bed but Hanks, since a bed big enough to accommodate Hank pretty much filled the little guest rooms in the Great Hall.

The fonts for the various people’s handwriting don’t show here, but you guys should still have the handouts somewhere to reference.

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