We gave chase to the creature which snatched up the homesteader and saw it abscond with our friend into a certain building, the one which was marked on the map as #59. At the same time, the blacksmith and I spotted the soldier and the bounty hunter and called them to join us.
We entered the dark building, and I conjured a ball of light to help guide our way. We came upon a mound of rocks. I could tell instantly these rocks were not the genuine article, but the others were convinced of their substantiality. I chanted my counterspelling rote and the illusion fell from my eyes. Through the gossamer stones, I could clearly make out a crank wheel attached to some kind of hatch door. I approached it and tried to turn the wheel, but I had not the strength to move the rusty machinery. The bounty hunter stepped up to help but still could not perceive the wheel hidden among the illusory rocks. I guided his hands to the wheel, but he was not able to make much progress. Someone suggested Eloise try, and for once I was glad to let the lady try a feat of strength, for she could actually see the wheel, and with her unnatural strength she quickly opened the hatch.
The hatch opened into a straight shaft down with a ladder affixed to the side. I sent my ball of light below so we could see the nature of the abyss before journeying further. The bounty hunter went down and said the shaft led to a tunnel that went off in two directions. “I think it’s down here. Get down here,” he called. We all went down, with Eloise taking the rear. We found ourselves not in a sewer nor a hastily dug escape shaft but in a subterranean hallway connecting the buildings, presumably so the hospital staff and patients could travel in inclement weather without exposing themselves to the elements.
We all tried to determine the direction in which the creature might have taken the homesteader. I found three important clues, but the others said I had guided them the wrong way and the same wrong way twice! Stupid illiterates! Without listening to my advice, it took the group just around two hours to bumble through the tunnels before arriving at a door behind which we heard noises. I took this time to educate the lady Eloise on poetry. The other men might not listen to me even though I’m correct, but at least Eloise knows she is a simple-minded creature and took heed of my lecture.
When we ventured through the door toward the noise, we found ourselves in a very clean, surprisingly sanitary area with a set of stairs. We went past a morgue-like room with corpses in various states of re-assembly. The blacksmith inquired about this, and I knew instantly this was the work of the blasphemous Resurrectionists of whom I had read in The Guild’s instructive tome, the “Thalarian Doctrine.” I explained this and that the Guild rightly instructed us to destroy them at all costs. We continued our explorations and found a group of nurses who were being held captive by large constructs similar to the one who snatched the homesteader. Clearly these minions worked for the dreaded Resurrectionists. I assured the nurses we could free them from their captivity, but they insisted they were there by choice. It was obvious to me that the Resurrectionists had used their considerable sinister powers to overwhelm and control these ladies’ childlike minds. Then suddenly I felt lightheaded.
I came around to find myself in a small room with bustling nurses and the large constructs blocking the exit door. I saw some clear liquid was being introduced directly to my blood stream and was certain the Resurrectionists had introduced some nerve gas into the room with the nurses and were about to extinguish my life with their formaldehyde. However, strangely, I began to feel better and better as I lay there. Not the deadly bliss described in the opium literature but truly a return to better health. As I came around, I noticed soulstone in one of the tanks slowly dripping into my veins.
I was just feeling like myself when a bearded man with tattooed hands rushed in and said, “I notice something with your aura.” I replied that I was a learned scholar of the magical arts, and he requested my help with the procedure to save the homesteader, who the nurses said had been grievously injured. Wanting to aid our dear friend the homesteader, I agreed to help immediately. I followed the bearded man around the corner and into another, larger room. The mangled homesteader was laid out on one table, and a little girl lay on another. The bearded man handed me a soulstone of the largest size and highest quality I had heretofore beheld. He directed me to hold it over the homesteader’s head. Then he produced a second soulstone which I would swear before the apostles was of identical size and quality, though I know, as does every person educated in the science of soulstones, that no two soulstones are identical.
The bearded man held this stone above the little girl’s head and began chanting an incantation. I cannot remember the entirety of the lengthy invocation, however, one line in particular stuck in my mind: “After you bleed the coal from the bones.” I feel certain I have heard this odd phrase before but cannot recall where. I feel some association with a sudden flash of pitch-black darkness and a feeling of weightlessness and otherworldliness.
The bearded man finished his chant, and I could tell the homesteader’s soul had transferred from his twisted body into the soulstone in my very hands. Outside the room, I heard a commotion as some of the others saw the homesteader’s breast cease to rise. With his wounds, this was the obvious outcome, but I didn’t have time to inform my companions. Something was going wrong with the procedure. The bearded man looked panicked. Eloise came into the room. She said this was what she was built for. She said she was supposed to hold a soul. She was arguing with the blacksmith that this was her destiny when the bearded man noticed the blacksmith’s metal hand. The bearded man commanded the blacksmith to place his metal hand between the two soulstones over the patients’ heads. Suddenly it acted as a conduit, and the power of the homesteader’s soul leapt from the soulstone in my hands to the blacksmith’s metal hand, and then it arced into the bearded man’s soulstone and drained into the little girl. So impressed was I that I did not notice until a moment later that the soulstone in my hands as well as the one in the bearded man’s grip had both cracked.
The little girl opened her eyes. The bounty hunter introduced himself and asked the little girl her name. She said, “Black-Eyed Pete” – the homesteader’s name!
“I had no idea this procedure would be this successful!” cried the bearded man, and he ran out of the room.
The soldier called out after him, “But what about the dark shadow?” The bearded man replied he had no time and had to take some notes.
The blacksmith was asking Eloise if she still thought she was needed in this strange place, and she was saying something about not here but “to house a soul.”
Then the bearded man screamed from the other room, “Where is it?” One of the nurses said he was looking for a book. The bounty hunter went around to the different rooms and found it in one of the patient rooms where we had been treated with the soulstone infusion. The bearded man shouted, “How dare you? I cured you all, and this is the thanks I get.” The bounty hunter asked why we were suspected of moving the book. The bounty hunter replied with the whereabouts of each of our group since our arrival – always under the strict supervision of the nurses and the constructs.
Finally the bounty hunter said, “Who’s missing, skulking around, hiding out? Blackie!” I had thought the Québécois man a gentleman, but those people are known for their thieverous ways.
Suddenly the soldier shouted, “Gun!” However, the action to which he was alluding was simply the bearded man taking a key from his pocket. He then used the key to lock up the Québécois into one of the rooms. The blacksmith spoke on his behalf, saying they did not find the book on his person or in his presence. One of the nurses told him the book had been in the bearded man’s locked office, and the Québécois was seen in that very office. She said it would be up to the bearded man – whom she referred to as “the doctor” – to determine what to do with the Québécois.
With calm restored, I took a moment to commit my own scribbled notes to my journal. Perhaps the discovery of this procedure would be the breakthrough to restore my reputation and allow me to return to the Oxford University of Metaphysical Studies.