At the head of the stairs, Lorelei, Conrad, and Britney were promptly stopped in their tracks. The blackness of the entryway was lit up as thunder cracked across the sky, and two hunched figures, no more than two-feet high, scurried across the foyer with a dog gnashing its teeth at their heels. There were more.
Grier skidded around on four paws through to the dining room behind the halflings, crashing into a table and littering the hardwood with place settings. Lorelei followed, the gash in her leg long forgotten, as they burst through to the kitchen where Hotaru was waiting atop the center island. The girl gripped the faucet hose in both hands, gritting her teeth and blasting the creatures with near-boiling water. The halflings knocked into the metal cabinets with a ping, tripping over one another’s soaked forms as they tried to escape.
Growling, Grier lunged for them, but one managed to grab the handle of a cast iron skillet with an obscenely long arm, and swung it around, making contact with his snout. Hotaru scurried across the length of the counter and jumped down. She took up the broom beside the door that lead to the store room and looked as though she would try and sweep them outside, but upon opening the door she found another batch of halflings tearing through the crates of fresh food. They turned on her with a snarl and she yelped, running full speed back at Lorelei, dropping the broom in her wake.
The three piled out of the kitchen with angry, hissing halflings on their figurative and literal tails. “How many of them are there?” Lorelei shouted breathlessly, tripping over a shattered plate.
“Too many!” Hotaru grabbed the edge of the door as she spun around it and into the foyer.
They were met with multiple sets of beady eyes coming at them from the sitting room. If they didn’t immediately stop they would collide, but they didn’t have to make the choice.
As if she were in a dream, Lorelei tried to propel herself forward, but a pressure on her chest held her to the spot, suspended in mid air just at the main entrance. She couldn’t move her head but could just glance down to see Grier mid-bound and Hotaru with her arms straight out ahead of her to brace for an impact with the floor that apparently wasn’t going to come. Frozen in place, she found she could still breathe, but only just, and the panic that was beginning to settle in her chest was doing nothing to help.
“Oh crap, we got them too. Was that me or you?” Conrad stepped into Lorelei’s view, his arms crossed and eyes narrowed as he bent down to inspect one of the halflings as the creatures following them and coming at them had all been frozen as well.
“Definitely you.” Britney swept past them all and to the front door.
Then the room brightened as the candles in the chandelier and lining the walls sprung to life all at once. Lorelei could hear footsteps on the catwalk above them, then Ziah’s voice, “What in seven hells is going on?”
“Trow, looks like,” Conrad called up to her, “They came up from the pools.”
“The manor’s defenses were taken down,” Ren’s typical drone was laced with suspicion, “Seems a bit complicated for a pack of trow.”
“Ren’s prejudice aside,” Ziah came down the stairs, sweeping her long black mane over her shoulder, “we’ve never had trouble with halflings before.”
Conrad grabbed the back of one of the frozen trow’s necks then with his free hand snapped his fingers. The creature started the thrash wildly and chatter in an incomprehensible language, but Conrad held it firm. “Britney’s taken all sorts of language courses, she should be able to ask it what it wants.”
Britney had just cracked open the main door, a cold wind slipping in and the sound of the rain intensifying. She grimaced, “Probably just to ransack the place. Come on, let’s unstun them and throw them out. You’ve got security up again,” she gestured to the candles, “They won’t get back in.”
“No, we need to know.” Lorelei didn’t need to see Ziah’s face to know she was glaring at the woman. “You’re here, may as well make use of you.”
Britney sighed and closed the door. Rolling her eyes, she shouted something that sounded more like dry heaving than words.
The creature stopped trying to escape, holding still, then grumbled a response.
“Says they were hired,” Britney shrugged.
After trading garbled phrases, Britney rolled her eyes again, “A warlock.” The trow spewed more words, and Britney listened, raising an eyebrow. She hesitated, then spoke, “They were sent here to retreive something that was stolen.”
Lorelei wanted desperately to see the looks they all wore, but could only see Britney. The blonde woman’s normally sour face was twisted in discomfort and her eyes were trailing the ground.
“If anyone’s got anything they shouldn’t, now would be the time to speak up,” Ziah cautioned.
“I don’t believe they can,” Ren said lowly over her shoulder.
“Oh, right,” Conrad nodded to Britney and the two snapped their fingers in unison.
The force pushing against Lorelei was suddenly gone, and she stumbled forward, her breath coming back all at once. Hotaru landed on the ground beside her, and when Grier made contact he instantly transformed back into a human. Groaning, the boy rolled over onto his back, blood running down his chin from his nose.
Ziah pulled Hotaru to her feet, “What exactly are they looking for?”
“They don’t know,” Britney responded without addressing the trow.
“Then how are they supposed to find it?” Lorelei helped Grier sit up and tilted his head back. The boy moaned, pinching his nose.
Britney threw her hands up, “I don’t know! They don’t really speak in full sentences!”
“Enough,” Ziah waved her hands, “Tell them they need to go.”
With a huff, Britney shouted again in a mishmosh of growls and groans and then with a look to Conrad they both snapped again. The trow were mobile, but when she opened the door they hustled out without complaint or pause into the rain.
“They just get to leave?” Lorelei gestured to Grier, “Just like that?”
“Just like that indeed,” Ren was standing very stiffly by the counter.
“We weren’t getting any more information out of them,” Ziah glared at Britney then turned away, “They didn’t get whatever they were after, and they won’t try again. Not like that anyway.”
Lorelei sighed, assuming they didn’t have a charmed police to call. Britney took Conrad aside into the sitting room, and while she wanted to follow, Lorelei instead went to the dining room. She tried the light switch when she entered and to her delight the bulbs overhead flicked on, breaker box unneeded.
Ziah came in after her to help pick up the shards of plates that had broken. “All this cleaning for nothing, hu?” Lorelei chuckled, gathering up silverware.
“Maybe,” Ziah glanced back out to the foyer and back to her, “Maybe not.”