08: Winfield II: Five & Damned

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When It Happened (Chronicle Time): August 16 2002

Who Was There: George Phillapoussis (Storn), Jonathan Wertham (Matt), Mark Donovin (Eric), Nemura Kentaro (Chris)

What It Was

Trapped in Winfield Hall, the Aces struggle to find a way out. They explore a phantom playhouse, reunite a pair of ghostly lovers, and survive a deadly cat-and-mouse with an ancient mummy in the mansion's basement. But then the second team from TNI arrives, leading to a violent confrontation. The Aces reach the third floor and find a pandemonium, where a cruel spirit torments the servants of Winfield, past and present. They escape back downstairs, and a momentary quiet settles on the mansion, giving them time to explore the second-floor bedrooms and to discover strange evidence of Woolworth's obsessions.

The Full Horror

Once they recover from their vision of Edna and the murder of her lover, the Aces and Monica decide they'll have to risk going outside. They need to reach the Teahouse Pavillion, and see what might still lie hidden in the tunnel. Monica is afraid of what they will find, but she bravely insists on coming along.

They head downstairs, arm themselves, and survey the north gardens from the veranda. A light rain is falling, and the mists still surround the estate. Bodies of guests lie scattered through the gardens: some tangled in rosebushes, some hanging from trees, others floating dead in the ornamental pool.

But there's also something new: a spectral playhouse. It's about four-feet-high and large enough to conceal at least two people sitting down. They cautiously make their way out to it, and discover that while it looks ethereal, it's actually somewhat solid. George manages to open the door. He slips inside, and has a vision of Edna and her mother, Jennie Creighton, enjoying a tea service on a beautiful summer's day. He feels the strong love between them, but notices the sad and complicated look in Jennie's eyes when she glances at the mansion.

Ken and Jonathan also take turns in the playhouse and have other visions. The first is Edna, alone in the Marie Antoinette room, mourning Jennie's slide into madness, terrified that if she loses her mother, she'll be left alone in the house with her father. The other vision is of Jennie, alone and held captive in her room. She yearns to see her children, and tries to resist when a nurse brings in her medication. But there's no hope. She accepts her pill, and sinks again into a medicated fog.

They move on to the Teahouse. Mark takes point, and as he comes up to the Pavilion, he sees Edna's ghost, crying and pressed up against the reinforced door leading to the tunnel. She looks up, frightened, and backs away as the others come up, but when she sees Monica, she calms down. Edna places a spectral hand on the tunnel door and looks sadly at Monica.

The Aces make short work of the lock and open the door to find wet, slimy steps leading down to a dank, brick-lined, and very dark tunnel. Using Essence, George gently takes Edna's hand, and they lead the way down. The group travels some distance before they come up to a skeleton. Edna steps forward, touches the remains, and the ghost of James, her lover, suddenly lunges up, frightening her. Then she rushes forward, and the two lovers fall into their first embrace in decades. It's a tender moment, and the Aces are careful not to interrupt it. But then the ghostly couple, hand-in-hand, turn to them with a confused look in their eyes. They're reunited at last. Why haven't they Moved On? It slowly dawns on everyone why: the master of Winfield still has them all in his grasp.

Suddenly, there's a loud bang from the direction of the Teahouse. Mark investigates, and he's not surprised to find the door shut, not even when he finds that the door is actually jammed into the doorway--no way out. The group has no choice but to head in the other direction. Fortunately, they find another reinforced door at the other end of the tunnel. With the help of Jonathan's "Body Electric" spell, they break it down, and step into what must be the mansion's basement. But not even Monica has seen this part of it. They walk down a short hallway, pass through another concealed door, and find themselves in a maze of corridors.

Footsteps in the Dark

The spirits of Edna and James suddenly look frantic. Edna frantically writes, "The Old One is here!" and then suddenly the couple is drawn up through the ceiling, back into Woolworth's clutches.

At that moment, the Aces and Monica hear a scraping sound and a heavy step echo from the darkness. They aren't alone down there. Readying weapons and turning off flashlights, they scout their way through the maze, passing neglected storage rooms, and a grim row of cells, one of which contains a skeleton from decades past. There is no easy way out of the maze, so the Aces decide to take the fight to whatever has been stalking them.

It turns out to be an ancient mummy, the same creature that must have killed the third TNI agent in the kitchen. Mark opens up on it with his assault rifle, and its awesome firepower brings the mummy down, at least temporarily. They try to burn the body, but fire doesn't affect it, and they can't be sure the mummy won't rise again.

Another vision overcomes them: an ancient king, standing on the very edge of the Nile Valley, where the dark rich soil meets the sands of the desert. The king is musing sadly on the oracles and dreams which have told him his name will be forgotten. His remains will be exiled to far away lands, his spirit enslaved to a mere merchant. The king has had to suffer a hard fate, and the Aces find themselves touched by it.

Satisfied that the mummy is not an immediate threat, the five escape the maze, and Monica realizes they're in the basement she knows, under the east wing of the mansion. They are about to go up to the kitchen, when Mark suddenly senses something wrong. Ken says he will go up and take a look, but when he sneaks up the stairs, strong arms grab him. The others are forced to disarm and surrender to Adam Johanssen and Cage, two-thirds of TNI's second team.

Monica and the Aces are frisked and escorted to the ballroom. Carey still lies passed out, and Lady Margaret and Michel are under the watchful eye of the black-clad TNI agent, Uriel Sterne. The TNI agents escort the Aces back to the kitchen, ordering Monica and the other hostages to stay in the ballroom. On the way, Cage mutters they should just execute the hostages, but Sterne disagrees, saying they may need them later. In the kitchen, Sterne conducts a ritual with a pentagram and an ancient bronze dagger. The ritual is able to bring down the spell that's been concealing the stairways to the basement and third floor.

Terror on Third

The TNI agents then escort the Aces up to the third floor, where they find a long hallway with a series of open doors leading to servants' quarters. Sterne conducts another, shorter ritual commanding the spirits of that floor to grant them all safe passage. But this time the spell goes very wrong.

Sterne is suddenly possessed, and the floor snaps beneath their feet, covering and sealing off the stairway. Pandemonium erupts as terrifying screams and cries burst from all the servants' quarters. The possessed Sterne throws out his arm and Johanssen staggers from a "Taste of Death." In the confusion, Mark jumps Cage, and the two powerful men struggle for their guns. Meanwhile, Ken takes down Sterne with a spectacular spin kick to the head.

Sterne is on the floor, rigid and gasping for air, the bronze dagger clutched tight in his hands. Johanssen is also down, unconscious. Mark wins the struggle with Cage and then executes the man without a pause. The other Aces are shocked, but Mark says TNI has simply left them no choice.

The Aces regroup and then run down the hallway. As they pass by the doors, they see that each room holds two servants. Some servants are alive, some are spirits, but all are restrained and suffering horribly as Essence is ripped from them.

A voice booms all around: "Do you like my servant's realm, you goddamned invaders? I'll turn your quivering bodies and blasted souls over to Willard. He'll take you, just like he's taking that black-clad fool back there. First we'll break you. Then we'll drink you dry." The mocking laughter continues as they reach the end of the hallway and a heavy door. Jonathan quickly looks inside and finds an observatory with an elaborate Zodiac mural on the floor and a large telescope mounted on an iron platform. For a moment, the ghost of Woolworth is there at the telescope, looking up to laugh at Jonathan before he suddenly winks out.

Meanwhile, Sterne and Johanssen have disappeared.

The Aces enter the obervatory and close the door behind them. The ceiling is made of large panes of glass. That doesn't match the aerial photos they've seen of the mansion, but they have no time to wonder about that. They break one of the panes and help one another up and out of the third floor. When the last man is out, the glass ceiling shifts and seals the opening after them. Once again, the third floor is cut off from the world.

Exploring the Second

Back in the ballroom, the hostages are relieved to see the four men still alive. Winfield Hall has gone quiet again, and the Aces decide they should take advantage of the calm to explore the bedrooms. Maybe one of the rooms will have something that will help them defeat Woolworth. Monica goes with them.

They check the Louis XIV room first, since that was where that photograph from the 1960s captured Woolworth's ghost on film. But it's just a normal room. The Marie Antoinette Room, however, is noticeably warmer than before; Edna and James may be trapped, but the Aces have still made a difference.

A quick search of the Egyptian room brings on a vision of Woolworth in Cairo during the 'teens, bartering with a reluctant Egyptian for the mummy. Woolworth asks, "Who will miss a forgotten king?" The Egyptian replies "Those Who Watch", but whoever They are, Woolworth seems to frighten the Egyptian even more. This pleases Woolworth who says Those Who Watch can deal with him if They dare.

The Aces move to the Edwardian room, formerly Woolworth's study. They find several things there, including a mysterious mirror made of black onyx, and a hidden safe in the wall. The safe contains a biography of Napoleon with a torn-out print of a painting showing Napoleon in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid. On the back of the print is a strange message in sepia ink: "All that I created, all that was mine. These walls were my bones, my sweat, and blood. I transcended all boundaries of time and space. This was my celestial instrument where...." Also on the page is the date April 12 with a heavy circle around it. Monica notes that April 12 was the day Woolworth died.

There are two other books. One is Albert Mackey's History of Freemasonry. The other is a text by Father Marin Mersenne that condemns the Rosicrucians as subversives bent on sowing perverted doctrines.

Inside the front cover of the Mersenne are several slightly burned pages from another book. There is a title page which reads, "Of the Final Day of the Rose Cross, and the Turning of the World to the Glory & Justice of the Most High, in the Year of Blessed, 1913." The writing is very dense, but it seems to be an account of "the last stand of the Rose Cross" and "their glorious defeat by the forces of Righteous Authority." There is a handwritten note as well, also slightly burned: "My dear Aglie, You may find this of interest. - S.-G."

They head back to the ballroom to regroup. Shortly after that, Monica comes back from the bathroom looking awful. She falls to the ground, holding her head and crying, "Stop, please, stop." The voice of Sunny Gwynne, the former cook of Winfield, is insisting Monica come to her.

Sunny used to live in a cottage west of the mansion, but that cottage burned down long ago. Yet when the Aces look out the French doors of the ballroom, they can see its spectral form shimmering in the distance.

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