After another nauseating trip through the Cullis gate back to the guild, I start the long walk home. As I make my way through Greatwood, something inspires me to stroll past Orchard Farm. I guess I have old crimes on the mind.
Apparently not. (enlarge)
The farmer and his wife are predictably unhappy to see me. But they’re desperate enough to ask for help anyway. They’ve got a ghost problem: Isiah’s mother.
Scrapes received in the Arena still mending.
Not typical Hero work, but what the hell, I’ll have a look.
Lady, the undead round was the easiest one. I wasn’t scared.
The shade tells me a sad tale: a bandit killed her while walking past Greatwood Lake and stole a necklace that was to be a wedding present for her son and daughter-in-law.
So, this necklace — how much would you say it was worth? Kidding! I’m kidding.
Well now this is seeming more like Hero work. Bandits are sort of my specialty. The lake’s just a short walk away, and when I get there, I see a bandit hanging around.
Let’s see what he’s got in his pockets.
Got it in one.
So… this makes us square on the other thing, right?
It feels good to make amends. It’s long overdue.
Darkwood is still Darkwood, but I’m not the same Hood anymore. I’m stronger, faster, better. I’m the most deadly predator in this place now.
My twenty-ninth birthday passes on the road. I feel so much older.
That’s a balverine being obscured by explosive electricity. I remember when these guys used to be scary.
On the southern edge of Darkwood, I can feel the undertow pulling me home. But I stop at the old Grey House first to see Theresa.
Really? I mean, REALLY really?
You’re a real “two clowns” kind of lady, you know that?
She drops a bomb on me unceremoniously: mom is alive after all these years.
Be honest. Did anyone in our family actually die in that raid?
So let’s find him and break her out! Where is he?
Unfortunately, nobody knows the current whereabouts of the Archaeologist. He was last seen in Bowerstone. I figure it shouldn’t be too hard to track him down; I do know the Mayor, after all. I’m kind of a big deal now.
Are you in this for mom or the sword, Theresa?
Then she leaves again. No good to see you. No thanks for coming. I hope my reunion with mom goes better than this has.
I poke around the house a little bit, wondering why it’s in such ruins. The Grey family really let this place go to hell.
What’s Rosie doing here?
I find a teddy bear with a very familiar patch on its back inside. Don’t really know what to make of that.
On my way into town, I find somebody who knows about the house. He used to be sweethearts with one of the Grey girls.
When did she die, exactly?
Not during the Oakvale raid. It was years after, apparently.
Did she now.
I put this mystery on hold. It’s time to go home.
Seems like I’ve been gone a lifetime.
Honey, I’m home.
And with money to spruce up the place.
I stay in town a few days. But eventually I have to break the news that I have to hit the road again.
So, it’s been really nice visiting, but…
That is a dramatic change in body language.
I explain that Theresa thinks my mother is alive. Myra understands. At least I think she does.
I head back to Grey House. Something Amanda’s sweetheart told me about how he used to signal to her from the stables has stuck in my head. I cover and uncover my lamp three times, just as he said.
And sure enough…
I am the ghost whisperer.
I follow the spirit down into the cellar, warily.
Sometimes being a silent protagonist is really annoying.
You look… oddly familiar. Have we met?
I can’t shake the feeling that I know this girl. Did I meet the Greys as a kid? It was so long ago now, I can hardly remember that life. The flames stick in my mind; the time before has… faded.
Want me to bring him down here and lock the cellar door?
What if I told you I could help you take it back?
The spirit points me toward a note that she wrote before she died.
Lady Grey is going down.
The door opens just as I’m about to leave.
I think so…? I’m still kind of confused about the teddy bear, to be honest.
So, you heard that I was poking around Grey House and came down here, through Darkwood, in the time it took me to search this cellar?
Coming on a little strong.
Lady Grey wants to know that I’ll keep her secret, and she’s putting all the moves in play to make it so. Well, for now that’s fine. I need her help to find the Archaeologist. She says she’ll be happy to assist. We agree to meet back in Bowerstone.
Once she’s gone, I poke around the place just a bit longer. I find this diary:
I wonder who that “masked messenger” was…
I make haste north, my mind turning this mystery over the whole way. I just can’t quite make the pieces of this puzzle fit. Not until I reach Bowerstone and stop in at the school to donate some books for my old buddy Mr. Gout.
Nobody can traumatize a classroom like Mr. Gout.
He takes an interest in that Oakvale Raid book I picked up years ago, but for the first time I notice the author’s name on the title page: Amanda Grey.
This is the precise moment it hits me.
Realization slams home. Rosie. The “get stuffed” girl. It was Amanda Grey.
It all makes sense now! …Kind of.
She wrote the book — which was the only account that contradicted the stories that Twinblade’s bandits burned Oakvale down.
And there she saw who really did the deed.
Jack of Blades didn’t fancy being implicated for the purge he enacted to capture my family, so he visited little Elvira Grey and gave her the idea of murdering her sister and inheriting the mayorship.
They’re both going to pay, Amanda. Lady Grey and Jack of Blades.
The only part I can’t quite work out is who I met when I first returned to Oakvale eight years ago. Amanda Grey died years before, and I remember thinking at the time that the lady looked nothing like Rosie’s owner. I assume this person was working for Elvira Grey or Jack, but why? The best guess I can come up with is that they wanted to fan the flames of my anger, juice me up for my showdown with Twinblade. Maybe they thought I might even kill the seeress at his side. That certainly would have been convenient for them.
Lady Grey’s gonna swing before I’m done here. But first she’s going to tell me where the Archaeologist is.
Next time on The “Heroic” Adventures of Hood…
Thunder wishes Hood well on his courtship of Lady Grey.