- Plane Weaver
Citizens of Rastaban have been summoned to Mordere Manor, the seat of an influential family of Connection Weavers within Rom, to discuss a potential money-making endeavour. Murder and supernatural occurrences are likely to ensue.
“Presenting Araminta Mordere!”
Upon her announcement by the Steward, our heroes meet Araminta, the debutante daughter of the Mordere family. Araminta is already an immensely competent Connection Weaver, and is utterly obnoxious. They meet her parents, Octavia and Landry, who summoned them all here, together with her great uncle Rafferty (who is clearly rather drunk). They meet Araminta’s betrothed, Archibald Glomp, as well as the good Doctor Prinkley. They also encounter several of the serving staff: Belcher the Butler, Scrapeshanks the Cook, Nanny Scrunch, Doldrum the Gamekeeper, and Essie the Maid. They don’t meet the Housekeeper, Mrs Catterall, because - as Essie frantically announces - she disappeared at some point late this afternoon.
This, however, is not the only problem our investigators1) have to contend with. There's also a thief on the loose (in possession of Octavia's prized flamestone), a fabled phantom boar that prowls the grounds to fulfil a family curse, a number of ghost stories concerning the Manor, a certain amount of unrequited love, a degree of covert activity and blackmail below stairs, something dreadful in the attic, an infestation of house crabs, and a terrible Conflict storm raging outside.
Oh, and then Araminta collapses - dead - murdered!
She's been poisoned, Doctor Prinkley confirms, through the oral administration of a deadly mycotoxin of the kind used by Doldrum to exterminate the house crabs. The plot has thickened, the game's afoot, and our heroes have less than half an hour to solve the crime! Why all the time pressure? Because (as the Steward reminds them) the mystery must be unravelled before the Tolling of Bells, at which time all Dark Secrets must be exposed - everyone knows that!
Our five sleuths get on the case, questioning suspects, piecing together clues, and pausing only briefly when the lights go out and a ghostly voice urges them to GET OUT. At last, when the bells begin tolling, they are ready to accuse none other than Doctor Prinkley of the murder! After a dramatic pause, Prinkley confesses, bitterly congratulating them on their perspicacity. The tolling ceases and the Steward clears their throat:
“Presenting Araminta Mordere!”
Araminta reappears as though nothing untoward has happened - indeed, from the behaviour of their fellow partygoers, our investigators cannot help but conclude that the events of the soirée so far have reset, somehow. Once more, they are introduced to the family, servants, and guests at Mordere Manor. Once more, they learn of mysterious disappearances, ghostly goings-on, and shady shenanigans. Once more, Araminta succumbs to poison administered by… by someone other than Doctor Prinkley, the Steward suggests - if the scene has reset itself, it seems likely that our heroes are being given a second chance to solve the mystery….
They become more bold in their investigations, this time around - with the help of Nanny Scrunch, Sowe searches the attic, discovering the forest touched Quentin Mordere incarcerated there (by his own wishes, it seems!). Quentin was thought to have died defending a village from forest monstrosities some seven years ago - recovered by his father Landry, he was locked away to prevent Octavia from ever finding out what he had become - it would have broken his mother's heart, Quentin assures Sowe. Euphemia and Nikolai, meanwhile, break down the door of Mrs Catterall's room, finding only a threatening note from an anonymous blackmailer - Scrapeshanks the cook, judging by the writer's linguistic quirks. Our heroes also learn that Nanny Scrunch once had a daughter of about Araminta's age, but that young Charity Scrunch, (who had displayed remarkable promise as a Connection Weaver) had run away when she was little more than ten years old.
By the time the Tolling of Bells begins, they are ready with a new theory regarding the murder: Scrapeshanks killed Araminta, presumably because she found out that the cook was blackmailing people. Scrapeshanks admits to the blackmailing… but insists that the killing had nothing to do with it. No, they killed Araminta because she stood between them and their one true love, Archibald Glomp!
As Scrapeshanks gets down on bended knee to propose to their beloved, the bells cease tolling and the steward once again exclaims:
“Presenting Araminta Mordere!”
Once more, the cycle plays out, although certain truths are becoming more apparent. While it's certainly true that those assembled have treated them oddly throughout (with no sign of the especial deference owed to Nikolai, nor of the thinly disguised disgust Sowe might have expected), it now becomes apparent that the family, guests, and servants of Mordere Manor do not recognise our five sleuths in the slightest… or, to be more accurate, they recognise them as someone entirely other to themselves. Upon further enquiry, our heroes realise that they are all - all five of them - being identified as a single person, a planar researcher by the name of Alba Jetsam.
Meanwhile, the Steward - the only person present who seems to be able to differentiate between the five of them - clearly knows a lot more than they're letting on. When the investigators enquire as to how long the Steward has been in the Morderes' employ, and who it was that selected them for the staff, the Morderes seem perplexed and uncertain… until the Steward helpfully provides that information for them. The Morderes' relief is palpable: “Ah yes, of course - that was it!”
The supernatural occurrences have increased in frequency and severity, too. At one point, a family portrait depicting Octavia, Landry and Araminta is flung from the wall - by some unseen hand - with considerable force. Upon closer inspection, it becomes clear that Araminta's image is covered in mould - the rest of the painting is untouched. On another occasion, the lights go out and our heroes witness a lantern-lit vision of Araminta dying while a shadowy figure weeps. When they try to address the ghost, first as Alba Jetsam, and then as Charity Scrunch, she appears to answer to both… but then screams, “that's not my NAME!” before disappearing.
In desperation, with the Steward insisting that the Tolling of the Bells is imminent and that this may represent their last chance to solve the mystery, Euphemia and Sowe each make an effort to contact the ghost directly, having received instructions from others present. Euphemia makes the first attempt, finding a mirror in a darkened room, closing her eyes, and intoning Mordere three times before looking in the mirror to see the ghost reflected there.
As a Perfection Weaver, Euphemia has been startled to realise that she cannot perform any Perfection rituals within the Manor - it has felt as though Perfection is not her plane, somehow. Connecting the Conflict storm outside with the ghost within, she challenges the reflection - this person is linked to Conflict somehow? The ghost admits that, yes, she is Conflict-aligned, but emphasises that they are not in Conflict at present. This place belongs to the ghost, who just wants Euphemia and the others to get out. But… in what respect does this place belong to the ghost, Euphemia wonders; how did the Morderes come to be here? “Because I remember them,” the ghost tells her.
By the time Sowe tries the mirror trick, many of the pieces have fallen into place. Sowe questions the ghost about her mother - “but,” the ghost asks, “who do you think my mother is?” When her tone hints that she doesn't recognise Nanny Scrunch as her mother in spite of having adopted the name Charity Scrunch at one point, Sowe tries once more to establish her identity. Once more, the ghost refuses to answer to “Alba Jetsam”, and to “Charity Scrunch”… but then Sowe tries a new name: “Araminta Mordere.”
This time, the ghost's scream of “GET OUT” shatters the mirror and sends Sowe running back to the others… who now have all the information they need to construct a workable theory of what is happening here.
Just in time - the Tolling of Bells sounds early. “What have you done?” cries the Steward. Vera can only respond, “I think… we've solved it!”
And with that, our heroes confess to the murder… and to their true identity as the estranged daughter of the family.
To the applause of the Steward, the scene dissolves, and they find themselves sitting in a ritual circle in another room in the Manor. The storm is over; the servants and guests are nowhere to be seen - besides themselves, the other people present are Octavia and Landry Mordere, and - wearing chains and a look of the utmost horror - the person they now know to be Araminta Mordere.
Our story begins a decade before the events of the freeform.
The Morderes swapped their daughter with the daughter of Nanny Scrunch when they were both ten years old, because young Charity Scrunch showed a natural talent for Connection that Araminta lacked, in spite of all her efforts. They used a Connection ritual to essentially attach Araminta’s connection with them to Charity, and vice versa, using a rather rough and ready memory wipe on the two kids to cover everything up. The family mostly keeps itself to itself within Rastaban, so nobody outside the family - except Nanny Scrunch - could have known.
However, the memory wipe wasn’t perfect, and both kids retained more memories (albeit scrambled ones) of their original status than the parents would have liked. Confused, the original Araminta ran away from the servants’ quarters. After suffering a degree of hardship as a runaway child and eventually finding her feet under a new name (Alba Jetsam), she entered academia, where her suppressed memories of her early studies and her desire to work out the connection between all the weird memories she was experiencing led her to study Connection as an ungifted scholar. Eventually, she managed to piece together enough of what had happened to conclude that the other Araminta had stolen her life and forced her into hardship while she enjoyed all the privileges owed to Alba - or the real Araminta, as she now began to see herself.
As a result of her academic leanings, she was coincidentally invited to the mansion to discuss a possible research job (the Morderes were unknowingly trying to enlist their own estranged daughter in their research into the heritability of planar inclination!), where she was able to meet the false Araminta in person. Experiencing significant emotional distress at the horrible irony of the situation, and enraged by the false Araminta’s arrogant and obnoxious attitude, she poisoned her on a stupid whim.
Octavia Mordere, however, half-recognised their daughter, and decided to establish her identity before deciding whether to press charges. Araminta, regretting her actions, turned herself in for questioning… but was too ashamed to provide a full confession, or to reveal her motive and true identity to her parents. As such, the Morderes elected to take extreme measures to extract that information from her, sending a group of investigators into her mind under the stewardship of a Connection entity known as Deduction.
Following the events of the freeform, and as the effects of Deduction's influence wear off and their full memories return, our heroes are able to recall this last part.
Yes, I killed her. I was angry; I was hurt; I didn’t think. All my life I’d been trying to piece together the fragments of my shattered memory, to work out who I really was… until, on that fateful night, I finally met myself in person. Araminta Mordere – or the person who had stolen that name from me.
I knew, of course – I knew enough to have worked most of it out. I devoted myself to the study myself, of what I was – hah, you got your wish for me, in the end – I studied Connection, just to find the connections between all the things I knew I’d lost. Oh, I still can’t wield magic of that sort – my tutors tell me I’m Conflict-aligned (no surprises there!). But I worked everything out. I found out what you’d done to me.
Was it really so important to you, so important that every child of our accursed family must be linked to that one plane? Did it really matter so much that you were compelled to cast aside your own daughter and replace her with another? Or were you helpless too, in your own way - forced to follow the dictates of the dead who haunt you still.
That’s why… that’s one reason why I can’t even bring myself to blame you for what you did – for breaking me and leaving me for Nanny Scrunch to fix. I was never Charity… even knowing nothing of myself, I knew that. I ran from this house, preferring the hardships of the barrens to the ghosts I saw here, the echoes I heard down every corridor.
I remade myself in time, gave myself a new name to put the streets behind me. I worked, worked hard to solve the mystery of who I was. I connected the dots, in the end – and, as Alba Jetsam, a distinguished researcher of planar phenomena, it seems that I attracted your attention.
I couldn’t believe it at first – the cruel irony of the situation. To think that you unknowingly tried to enlist your own estranged daughter in your research into the heritability of planar inclination! It was too much, too much… and then I saw her, the supercilious little tyrant who had stolen my life and now wore it like she had every entitlement to it.
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you like this. I didn’t want you to know who it was that killed your beloved daughter. I would have gone to my death in silence, if I could… but you couldn’t allow me that… not even that. Once again, you’ve found your way into my head, and once again, I wish I could hate you for it.
I don’t hate you. I… I….