The carriage rattles as it bumps over stones in the dirt path winding up toward Rookstone Manor, your new home for the next several months. You have been invited to study at Rookstone, all expenses paid, including room and board. Your parents were bemused by the owner's invitation, but the opportunity for free private schooling seemed too rare and valuable to pass up and everything appeared above board.
Across from you sits Dr. Pendleton - not that kind of doctor, he assured you on meeting, but rather "just a chap with a bit too much schooling." You're not entirely sure what his job is, but it has something to do with the government inspecting or supervising or otherwise keeping tabs on the students.
Dr. Pendleton smiles at you as he passes over a form. "The governess asked me to have you fill this out, it's just a quick thing, if you wouldn't mind." You look over the questions - just normal stuff:
> First and last name
> Age (9/10/11/12)
> Gender (M/F)
You write down your name, age (12) and gender and scribble down the other basic information required. Handing it back to Dr. Pendleton, you feel like you have to ask.
"Why are we taking a carriage up to the school?" You've been wondering for a while now. "Why not just take the car?"
"The owner of the property doesn't like motor vehicles on the estate," he replies with a chuckle. "I don't think she likes the noise very much. She's provided this carriage and driver for any business between Rookstone and the town."
You nod. Looking out the window, you can see how different life at Rookstone will be from the city - there aren't any houses around, let alone cars, just fields and the trees beyond.
"Ah, I do believe we're coming up to the statues. We should be there soon. Take a look!" the doctor beams. You watch as they come into view - first a stone statue of a child running, then a horse rearing up a few feet behind. "We're nearly there, then?"
As if to answer your questions, the hoofbeats begin to slow and you hear the driver calling "Whoa!" Before long, the carriage comes to a halt and the door opens. The carriageman, Roy, is a youngish fellow, no more than 20 you think, with mussed brown hair and a warm smile. He's got your bags in hand.
Stepping out of the carriage, you look up at a vast stone mansion, almost like a castle in size, far bigger than you had imagined it. A large double door is surrounded by tall curtained windows and at least three floors in the main section alone, to say nothing of the towers - there are towers! - on the ends of the building.
A huge, grumpy-looking man in a brown coat comes over to lead the horses away as Dr. Pendleton walks over. He hands you your papers and looks up at the building.
"Impressive sight, isn't it? This place has been home to a great many children over the past few years. I'm sure you'll fit in in good order. Miss Priddle, the governess, will be waiting for you. I daresay we should get on."
Roy looks over. "We'll be ready to head off again in about twenty minutes, Doctor." Pendleton nods. "I'm sure Clarissa will be sorted by then." You follow the doctor's lead and head to the doors when something catches your eye - but when you turn your head to confirm, it's gone. What did you see?
> A woman looking down from the window.
> A child looking out from the window.
> Something else looking down at you.
It's gone, if it was ever there, but for a moment you could have sworn you saw something staring down at you from the roof - something with large, glowing eyes. There are only stone gargoyles up there, though, and none of them are glowing.
Dr. Pendleton raps on the front door, which swings open to reveal a tall, spindly woman with drawn features, brown hair going iron-gray, and an expression of deepest distaste. You picture a vulture in human form. The doctor seems taken aback - not who he expected, then.
"Ah, er, hello Mrs. Mulgrave. We were expecting Miss Priddle." The woman fixes Pendleton with a hard look and then shifts it over to you. "This is, ah, Clarissa Green. She's the new boarding student. I would imagine you were told all about her."
"Ah. Is Miss Priddle in?" Dr. Pendleton appears uncomfortable.
"She's not available at the moment. One of the children fell and twisted something." Mrs. Mulgrave gives a cold smile that doesn't reach her eyes. "I'll take the girl in."
"Right then. Thanks very much. I'll just pop over to see if Roy's ready to head down. Clarissa, my number is in the papers there if you should need anything. Just in case. Nobody ever calls, but you're always welcome to." Pendleton gives you one last smile, nods nervously to Mrs. Mulgrave, and walks away.
"Come," Mulgrave barks at you, and you step over the threshold. She slams the door shut behind you, and your eyes adjust to the dimness within. Most of the light seems to come from the windows, and if they're using electric bulbs anywhere you can't see any. The house feels slightly cold for this time of year. Mrs. Mulgrave is already walking down the hall, and she shoots a dirty look back at you when you're not fast to follow.
"Right then, girl. I'm Mrs. Mulgrave, the housekeeper. I don't take care of any children, so if you're having problems you're not to bring them to me. I do have to clean up after any messes that are made, though, and if I find one as is not well accounted for then someone's going to be hearing from me. Understand?" You nod. "Speak up, girl." "Yes."
"Now then. House rules. You're not to go to the front door unless escorted. The eastern wing's doors are locked, and you're not to go in there either. When the dinner bell rings, you come straight to the dining room - if the doors are closed, you don't get to eat. Food doesn't leave the dining area. Don't go prying into any cupboards or closets where you don't belong. At night, the curtains are to be closed on your windows. Understand?" "Yes."
"Good. Now then, the house has a lot of staff to keep everything running smoothly. You're not to bother them. Miss Priddle deals with you, and Master Hall, and not anyone else. Most especially, don't be bothering Her Ladyship. She's too good to you kids, letting you come and live here and take lessons."
She pauses with her clawlike hand on a door handle. "Some of the children like to tell nonsense stories. You're old enough to know better. If I hear any claptrap out of you, there's going to be hell to pay. Keep your head straight, girl, and mind you follow the rules." She turns the handle and swings the door open into a large sitting room filled with desks. A number of kids look over at you, and the man at the head of the room stops talking. He's a skinny fellow with brown hair and glasses, dressed in a pinstripe suit and looking very mildly mad.
"Hello, Mrs. Mulgrave. How can we help you today? Nobody's in trouble, I hope?" the teacher flashes a toothy smile. Mulgrave pushes you into the room.
"Ah yes, the new girl! They told me your name, but I don't remember it." He reaches out to shake your hand."
"I'm Clarissa, Clarissa G-" "SHH" he cuts you off, "You musn't tell me your surname before we've met. Wouldn't that be unusual? Can't be doing that now. Clarissa will be fine. Pleasure to eventually meet you, Clarissa. Before you take a seat, have you eaten yet?" Mulgrave shoots him a look. "She's just got in with Pendleton. I'm sure she's fine."
"Nonsense," the teacher says, still smiling. "Take her down to the kitchens, please, Mrs. Mulgrave, and see that she gets something to eat. I'm sure they'll be happy to fix her a sandwich."
"I'm busy, Hall," sneers Mulgrave, "and anyway it's not my job to usher children about."
"Ah, but guests are certainly your responsibility, and until Miss Priddle sees to her she's not yet registered properly. That makes her a guest!"
Mulgrave glowers at him, shoots you a "come along, girl" and stalks away down the hall. You hurry to follow. Hanging a right, she pushes past a swinging wooden door and raps on a countertop. A pleasant-looking woman of robust size with frizzy blonde hair trundles over.
"Good day, Mrs. Mulgrave, what have we here?"
"New girl. Get her some food and keep her here until Priddle shows. I've work to be about."
"And I haven't?" the woman snarks, wiping her hands on her apron, but she turns to you with a pleasant smile. "Alright then, my girl, let's put some lunch in you. Can't have you looking that skinny at your age, the boys wouldn't know how to be about you."
Soon enough you've got a sandwich and some fried potatoes in front of you. The woman introduces herself as Lizzie Cook ("not my name, just my job") and makes a bit of small talk with you. She pops back into the small room where you're finishing up and announces that her work is done for at least the next few minutes.
Is there anything you want to ask her, or do you just want to wait for the governess?
>Is Mrs. Mulgrave always like that?
in a conspiratorial whisper. After that, more small talk.
>What's it like living here?
>What's it like being a cook?
>What do you do when you're not cooking?
"Is Mrs. Mulgrave always like that?" you ask in a hushed voice. Lizzie Cook bursts out with a laugh.
"Oh my word, yes. That one could be a witch's role model. Doesn't care for children, I'm afraid. Been in a foul state ever since Mr. Mulgrave passed." She pauses. "Mind you, she was just the same before he passed, too. Don't expect a kind word from her, girl. Keep out of her way and pray she keeps clear of yours."
You nod. It's reassuring to know that you haven't put a foot wrong on your first day. "So what's it like living here?" you ask.
"Well it's a bit odd, this house. You'll get used to that. You'll find your mobile phone won't work, not out up here, and you'll need to adjust to the sounds of the place. It's terribly old, you see, so at night it creaks and shudders and you'll think you're hearing all manner of strange things. Footsteps, I always think of. You're old enough not to be fearing things as go bump in the night, though."
A maid comes in to take your plate and brings two cups of tea. You're not used to tea but the heat is nice in the chill of the room. "It's a big house, Rookstone is. I've been here a long time and I still find myself getting lost every now and again. I like to say some of the rooms are hiding on me."
"What's it like being a cook?" you ask politely. Lizzie Cook snorts. "It's a bloody trial from the crack of dawn to the break of dusk and don't let anyone tell you different. Ah, you need to like this job if you want to be working at it. I've always loved food, as my dress size can tell you," you laugh despite yourself, "but I won't lie, it can be a chore doing up breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the whole herd of you."
"So what do you do when you're not cooking?"
"Well, I often think I should pop down to the town, but would you believe in all my time here I've just never found the occasion? I get on with some of the staff, of course, and the Lady lets us borrow books from the library rooms."
A knock on the door heralds the arrival of a pretty younger woman with red hair, dressed smartly in black. "Sorry, sorry, so sorry Lizzie. Thanks for entertaining." Her high-heels clack as she approaches, hand out, and you stand to greet her. "You must be Clarissa. I'm Jill Priddle, the governess. I'm glad you could make it! Sorry I couldn't meet you earlier, but Mrs. Mulgrave found one of the younger kids with a twisted ankle and I had to patch him up." She gives you a brief smile. "I expect the school day is over; why don't we get you up to your room so that you can unpack?"
Taking one of your bags from you, Miss Priddle leads you up the large staircase at the front of the house and takes you off to down the right corridor. "The girls' rooms are in the northern part of the house, along with washrooms and stairs to come down near the dining room. We'll take those stairs when we go down for dinner; they're the ones the kids use to get around most of the time. Here is your room," she pushes open a door, revealing a large, comfortable-looking bed, end table, dresser and mirror. A large window dressed with thick dark curtains, a candleholder and a small door at the back of the room complete the environs.
"You have your own little closet there, and there are matches in the nightstand drawer for your candles. I'm afraid these rooms don't have electric lights. It's an old house, you know. I've got a few oil lamps if it would make you more comfortable." She pauses and adjusts a few stray hairs back into place. "Now then, how can I help you adjust to your stay here at Rookstone? I'm sure you've got some questions?"
> Not really!
"So, other than the students, who else lives here?" you ask the governess. She puts a finger to her cheek, pondering.
"Well, most of the staff... Lizzie Cook, of course, and her maids. Mr. Johnson, the gardener - most of the veggies you'll eat are grown right here on the grounds! Myself, of course, Mrs. Mulgrave, the teachers, and Morris, the handyman. He lives outside of the house. I think that's everyone."
Miss Priddle gives herself a little smack on the forehead. "How could I forget? The owner of the estate, Lady Ravenlock, she lives here as well."
"What's the daily schedule like?"
"We start early, the breakfast bell rings at about 7:30 AM, so you'd best be up and ready sharp. Cook doesn't close the doors at breakfast time, so nobody ever misses breakfast. You'll have classes with Master Hall from 8:30 in the morning until noon, then lunch, more classes to four, and free time up to the dinner bell, which is anywhere from 5:30 to 6. After dinner is your time, which you can use as you like, but curfew is 8:30 PM for the younger children and 9:15 for you. I prefer to see lights out by 11 so that you can get enough sleep, but I won't be bursting in to check."
"Can you go over the rules of the house?" you ask. "Mrs. Mulgrave was telling me a whole bunch of things and I just want to make sure I have them right."
"Well, curfews, dinner bell... Mrs. Mulgrave likes to threaten to close the doors on the children when they're not down for dinner, but I'll never let you go to bed hungry. You have to attend your classes unless you're ill, and you'll need to check with me to be marked if that happens. The staff are busy, so you should try not to be a bother while they're about their duties."
"You've the run of the house during free time, and the north and west yards to play in. There are woods to the north; I know you're old enough to be safe in there, but we prefer if nobody goes in unless Morris is with them. It sets a bad example for the younger children. The east side of the house is a bit swampy, so don't go around that way. Don't get in the habit of making messes, and do watch out for Mrs. Mulgrave. She likes to make trouble and she's a right old b-" Miss Priddle seems to catch herself. "She's not very kind. To people who break the rules, I mean."
"What else... hm. The front door - it's kept locked, and it's not your business to be answering it or going out to the front yard. Some of the children like to go down and see the horses, but you can look at them from the windows. Close the curtains in your room before you go to bed. You're allowed to take books from the library rooms without asking, but please don't write in them - I've seen some children marking in them with pencils and I don't want to see the Lady's property damaged. Speaking of the Lady, her chambers are in the north wing up the red staircase. You aren't allowed up there unless invited. Keep the noise down when you're in the north wing, try not to run in the halls, and that's pretty much it. I'm sure you'll do fine here!" she smiles at you again.
After your things are put away, Miss Priddle takes you down the back staircase just as a loud bell rings. You hear footsteps rumbling from around the house as children begin heading to the dining room. Miss Priddle stops at a door, turns the handle, pokes her head in and then closes it back up.
"Not that way. This house is just too big. It must be..." she tries another one. "Aha!" You follow her around an elbow-shaped hallway and end up in the main foyer, where the crowd presses into a large dining room. You take a seat at a table with kids roughly your age.
"You're the new girl! Hello, I'm Jillian" chirps a redheaded girl with glasses who looks somewhat familiar.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Philip" adds a high-voiced boy with pale blond hair. His friend, a dark-haired boy with thick eyebrows, is already scooping away at a bowl of mashed potatoes. "This is John. Don't mind him."
"Nice to meet you all," you reply. Jillian looks around. "Where's Thacker?" she asks the others. John shrugs, mouth full of bread.
"He's gotten in trouble again. I heard he punched Timothy. He's probably in Priddle's offices right now," a slightly chubby blonde girl contributes.
From over at another table you can see a mousey-haired little girl in a dirty dress glaring around at everyone. She shoots you a foul look as well.
"Don't mind Martha," the blonde girl says, "she's not got any friends. Hi, I'm Beth. Want some soup? It's tomato!"
Dinner goes along, and with the fireplace lit and the heat of the people in the room, it becomes much more comfortable. You chat with the kids around you about where you came from, your family, their time at Rookstone. You overhear a few bits of conversation that sound like nonsense, about someone strict, someone who's a real witch, and kids cutting class.
> Ask about this strict person
> Ask about this unpleasant witch
> Ask about kids who cut class
> I'm tired, off to bed.
"Who are they talking about that's strict? Mulgrave?" Beth snorts as Philip laughs. Jillian rolls her eyes. "Ignore them," she says. "It's a stupid story the younger kids tell to scare each other."
Beth gives you a wide-eyed stare. "Beware the Strict!" she says in an imitation of a ghostly voice. "It'll get youuuuu! But seriously one of the kids saw an owl or a bat or something and started telling monster stories to the rest. You know how they are." You're not so much older than the kids she's talking about, the youngest here couldn't be less than 8. Still, you remember that age. You give a laugh. "What a weird name for a boogeyman," you say.
John looks up. "It wasn't an owl, it was definitely old Mulgrave. She's as strict as they come."
"So did I hear there's kids who cut class? Don't they get caught?" Beth shifts in her chair.
"It's all Jim's fault," Jillian sniffs. "He's nothing but trouble. Tells other kids wild stories and gets them to play hide and seek all day instead of coming to class. I hear they even steal food!"
"Mulgrave chases 'em around, but somehow they give her the slip. They've been at it for... how long now, John?" asks Philip. "Few days... maybe a week?"
"It's very silly of them," Jillian says. "Beth skipped a day of class to go play with them once. She got in a lot of trouble, didn't you, Beth?"
Beth glares at the redheaded girl. "None of your business. And anyway, it's not like I didn't catch up."
"So which one is Jim?" you ask, looking around the room. Philip shakes his head. "Haven't seen him in a while. He nicks food from the pantry so that Mulgrave can't nab him outside the dining room. I hear he's in for a real talking-to from the Lady herself."
After dinner ends, you find yourself feeling quite tired. You head up the back stairs to your room. At the door, you see a small stack of red-bound books waiting for you.
You get ready for bed, lighting a candle to keep the room from getting too dark to see. It gives off a surprising amount of light, considering you're used to fluorescent bulbs.
> Close the curtains?
> Leave them open.
You pull the curtains closed. No sense breaking the rules on your first night at the house, no matter how strange. The red books catch your attention... you may be tired, but you're not sleepy yet.
> Read a book
> Sort your closet
> Go exploring
> Pop those curtains open after all
You look at the titles available - some old classics. Alice in Wonderland, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the Wind in the Willows, all with a fairly plain red binding. You're inclined to turn a few pages of Robert Louis Stevenson when a boy's voice comes through the wall:
"The red books are hers. Don't read the red books."
> Read it anyway
> Ask who's there
> Ask what they mean
"What do you mean?" you say at your wall, feeling more than a bit foolish.
"I mean you shouldn't read them. Don't read any of the red books. The others are safe. It's only the red ones that belong to her."
"Who is 'her?' Why would she care whether or not I read one of her books? They were left here for me."
"Of course they were," the boy says, sounding frustrated. "She wants you to read them. It's how she gets you. So don't read them. Leave them alone."
> "You're a bit crazy, you know that?"
> "How did you even know I was looking at them? Are you spying on me?"
> "Say I believe you. What happens if she 'gets' me?"
"Who the hell is 'she'?" you demand, frustration pouring into your voice. This is getting a bit ridiculous and you're too tired for this nonsense.
"Did you say 'witch'?"
"Yes. You have to keep away from her. Don't read the books."
"And what happens if I do? What happens if she 'gets' me?"
"If she gets you," the boy's voice drops to a whisper, "you'll never be able to escape from Rookstone."
"What does that even - " you cut off as you see a light coming from under the door. You didn't even hear anyone approach.
"Hello?" you call toward the door. The floorboards creak awkwardly as someone deliberately walks away. There's a silence, and then the boy starts talking again.
"Look, tomorrow is a Saturday, you don't have any classes. Go to the Mahogany Room. There will be a book on the big leather chair. Check the front page."
"Who are you?" you hiss back at the wall?
"Oh right, sorry. My name's Colin. I'm going to help you escape!"
You try talking to the wall a few more times but you get no answer Whoever Colin is, he must have gone.
> Read a red book anyway
> Go exploring down the hall to see if you can spot who was lurking outside your door
> Open the curtains
> Go to sleep
You consider going to see if you can spot who it was that was at your door, but it's past curfew. With a sigh, you leave the red book on the nightstand, put out the candle and go to sleep.
A ray of sunlight through the curtains wakes you, and no sooner are you dressed than the breakfast bell rings. You go downstairs, meeting up with Beth and Jillian as you reach the table. Lizzie Cook comes over.
"Pancakes this morning, girls! I've made plain and blueberry, so take your pick!"
A balding man in overalls pops around the corner. "Good morning, Lizzie! Did I hear someone say blueberry pancakes?" The cook waves his hand away from her serving plate with a wooden spoon. "If you want one, go ask them in the kitchen or wait till the kids are done, Mr. Johnson."
As the adults walk off, you remember your strange conversation from the other night. "I thought I'd explore the house today," you begin casually. "Do either of you know where the Mahogany Room is?" Beth gives you a strange look.
Jillian doesn't notice. "Of course I do. It's part of the west wing, on the second floor between the Cedar Room and the Oak Room. They're library rooms just off from the Gallery. I can take you up there if you want to go."
> Yes, let's do that
> I think I'll go on my own
> Why don't you show me a different part of the house first?
Beth interrupts. "Actually, Jillian, I'll take her. I was going up that way anyway."
"Alright, let's all go," says Jillian brightly. Beth shakes her head. "Don't you have to see your aunt this morning about something?
Jillian narrows her eyes. "No. I don't. Are you trying to get rid of me? Clarissa, let's go."
> Go with Beth alone
> Go with Jillian alone
> Go with both
"Jillian's right," you say, earning a huffy nod from her and a disgusted look from Beth. "Why don't we all go?"
"Unless you were planning to get into trouble again, Beth" sneers Jillian. You sigh. This could be a long morning.
They take you up the main staircase and turn left, leading you through a few different rooms until you reach a large hallway whose walls are decorated with paintings. Each of these pieces of art apparently depicts a different child - one of them has two boys who might be brothers, they look so similar - but one of the paintings is covered with a black draping.
"What's that one of?" you ask. Jillian shakes her head. "Auntie says we're not to ask about that one."
"I heard all of these were done by the Lady herself," Beth tells you. "I bet that one's no good."
"That's rude," sniffs Jillian.
"What if it's, like, a dead relative she didn't like?" you offer. "Or maybe... is the Lady married? Maybe it's her ex?"
"Lord Ravenlock died years ago," Jillian says. "and anyway it's not nice to talk about things the Lady doesn't want us bothering with. Let's just go."
"Hang on," says Beth. "I'm kind of curious now. What do you say, Clarissa. Should we peek? It won't hurt anyone."
> Peek at the painting
> Leave it alone and keep going
"I don't think we should touch it," you tell Beth, who gives you an exaggerated sigh.
"Clarissa, you should be more fuuuun! Fine, let's go then."
At the end of the hall, a door opens into a room with a bust at each corner. Oddly enough they all appear to be of the same man.
"I think that's Lord Ravenlock," Jillian says.
Through the next door, you pop into a dark hallway with gas lamps on small tables lighting the space and a red carpet stretching from end to end. Three doors are on the opposite wall.
"Here we are!" Beth says brightly. "Oak, Mahogany and Cedar. We want this one!" she opens a door. "Huh. Nope."
Jillian sighs. "You should really know your way around better. What would you do without me?" She opens the door on the left, which leads into a room decorated with handsome dark wood paneling and leather chairs. A small boy is sitting next to one of the bookshelves near the window, nose buried in a volume that seems to dwarf him. He looks up as you enter.
"Hey there Timothy!" calls Beth. "You got the message too?"
He nods. He's staring at you as though extremely confused.
"Oh, right. Timothy, this is Clarissa. She's new. I don't know her last name."
"Green," you say. "Clarissa Green. It's nice to meet you."
Timothy puts down his book, walks over and gives you a surprisingly firm handshake. He glances at Jillian. "She's not supposed to be here."
Not a great thing to say. Jillian flies into a huff. "I have just as much a right to be here as anyone else! You're so rude, Timmy!"
"If you're going to tell me I'm not welcome then I don't think I much care what you want me to call you."
Timothy ponders, then gives her a wide-eyed look. "Right now I'd like you to call me someone who's in a different room from you."
Jillian stomps her feet. "Fine! I don't know why I came up here anyway, you were probably writing in books again and making trouble. Clarissa, let's go."
> Smooth things over
"You go, Jillian. I'll be right with you. I just want to say something to these two first." Jillian sticks her tongue out at Beth and leaves, slamming the door behind her.
"You're really going to take her side?" Beth sighs.
"No, I just want to... um..." you look at the biggest chair in the room, but there's no book on it. Timothy comes up behind you.
"I think you want this," he says, handing you the book he was reading. It's a black-bound volume titled "The Evolution of Feudalism in Britain." You turn to the front page and see a note scribbled there in pencil.
"Bottom-right book on the lowest shelf, corner behind the large chair." Today's date is also listed, beside the letter M.
"What does this mean?" you ask Timothy. He takes the book back and drops it on the chair. "Instructions for the next meeting," he replies.
Beth looks at you. "Are you going to come with us, or go back out there with little miss prissy?"
> Go with Jillian. You already said you would.
> Go with Beth and Timothy.
"I have to go with her," you tell them. "I already said I would. If I don't, she might go tell someone and I feel like you don't want that."
"Makes sense," Beth agrees. "I'll put a note in a book and throw it in your room tonight, okay? You can come to the next one. Remember, don't read the red books."
Still such a bizarre warning.
You step out of the room to see Jillian looking oddly pale. Turning, you see the reason why. Mrs. Mulgrave is standing right behind you, broom clutched tight as though she planned some child-whacking.
"Well well well. What might you be up to in here?" she growls. Behind her, you see a mess of mousey hair whip around a corner.
"We were just looking for a book, Mrs. Mulgrave," Jillian tells her quickly. The iron gaze of the housekeeper doesn't leave your face for a second, as though she thinks she can drill through to your brain.
"Not bloody likely. Hiding something, were you? Who else is in there?"
You raise your voice a bit to warn them. "Nobody else is in the Mahogany Room, Mrs. Mulgrave!" You're not even sure there was room to hide in there, but you wish them luck.
The housekeeper pushes you to the side and opens the door, sticking her head in. She closes the door with a scowl and whirls on you both. "Her Ladyship wants these rooms set aside for the day. You're not to be around here until Miss Priddle says otherwise. Now be off with you." She slips a key off the lintel, locks the door and drops it in a side pocket of her apron. "Don't stand there goggling at me. Leave!"
You're close enough that if Mulgrave was distracted you might be able to sneak the key away from her... but are you quick enough to do so? Is it worth the risk?
> Try to steal the key from Mrs. Mulgrave
> Go do something else in the house; hopefully Beth and Timothy will be alright
> Find Miss Priddle and tell her what happened
> Find Miss Priddle and tell her what happened
There should be multiple sets of keys in the house. Don't mention the meeting or anything, just say that we were looking for books and Beth and Timothy got locked inside
>> Go do something else in the house; hopefully Beth and Timothy will be alright
I REALLY want to because in every open world game that allows it I'm a pickpocket, but I get the feeling that they have a...way out.
Because if Mrs. Mulgrave is like any notable mean-spirited caretaker, she's an unusually effective spin-doctor and can make us out to be hoodlums to the folks in charge regardless of the truth.
You run off with Jillian, back through the Gallery to the main foyer. Neither of you needs to suggest it, you both know right away what you should do.
Jillian takes the lead, bringing you to a small study off of one of the main foyer hallways. A desktop computer, Chromebook and old-style rotary phone make for an odd tableau of technology, but this is certainly the most modern room you've seen in Rookstone so far. Miss Priddle is sitting behind her desk with a cup of coffee.
"Good morning girls. Let's practice our knock next time, okay?" she chides with a smile.
"Auntie Jill, Mrs. Mulgrave locked some kids in one of the library rooms!"
"She WHAT?!" You've never actually seen someone spit their coffee before. "They were hiding and she came along and locked the room, Miss," you tell her.
She's already bolt upright and walking out of the room at alarming speed for someone in a tight skirt and heels. "Why didn't you just tell - nevermind, I know. Jillian, could you run back and get some paper towels from Nora for that coffee before it leaves a stain? Clarissa, you come with me. Did Mrs. Mulgrave say why she was locking the room, or was she just being - " she catches herself, "did she say why?"
"She said the Lady wanted to use those rooms later," you tell her. Miss Priddle shakes her head. Soon enough you reach the Gallery, then the red carpet hallway. Miss Priddle tries the door on the left, then the door on the middle, which is locked.
You could have sworn the Mahogany Room was the one on the left.
Fiddling with a key ring, Miss Priddle finds the right one and unlocks the room. You pop in with her. "Alright kids, Mrs. Mulgrave is gone, you can come out now." When nobody pops a head out, you look behind the chairs and in the covered shelves in the middle of the walls. There's nobody in here.
"Hm. They must have gotten out before she locked the door. I don't know how you didn't see them, Clarissa, but..." she gives you a kindly smile "Mrs. Mulgrave can be an... overwhelming... person. It wouldn't be too hard to get distracted by her when she pops up out of nowhere." You're just relieved she doesn't think you were pranking her. As she leaves, though, you search around the Mahogany Room one last time. You're sure they didn't get out before she locked the door.
Where did they disappear to?
> Check the book the note mentioned
> Go find Jillian and keep touring the house
> Check the room on the left. Something's not right here
You were sure that the Mahogany Room was the one on the left. How did you make that mistake? Just to check, you open the door on the left. The room inside is surprisingly warm and cozy, with soft fabric chairs and two windows illuminating light wood paneling. Two bookshelves flank a table with a ship-in-a-bottle displayed. A cabinet built into the wall opens up to reveal a hollow shaft that's pretty spacious, with cables running upward and downward. You think you've heard of something like this.
Leaving that room, you return to the middle room, which is definitely the one you were in earlier. On a hunch, you decide to try that book the note told you about. It pulls out easily... but nothing happens. You were expecting some kind of secret passage to open or the bookshelf to retract, anything that might explain where Beth and Timothy ran off to. Just in case, you flip to the front page of the book.
A new pencil-written note is waiting for you: "Hello Clarissa, sorry we couldn't meet today but you need time to get used to the house. This is still the right book, you just used it wrong. Expect a message tonight. Beth will deliver it to your room."
You're starting to feel a bit hungry; you should have had more than just the one pancake at breakfast. Maybe you'll meet up with Jillian and then go down to see when lunch will start. As you leave the Mahogany Room and close the door carefully behind you, you notice something next to one of the gas lamps.
A basket full of fresh fruit.