In a rural part of Killedam in the Deltalunds, there stood a tall, imposing, stone building with barred windows: Iason House, an asylum for the insane. The approach to it was a stone path leading up to a twisted, black metal gate. Through that gate led a winding way through gardens, up to a heavy wooden door.
And, through that door, one entered the foyer. It was a large room full of tables, chairs, and numerous guards. Some of the calmer inmates were allowed here, under watch, and the more educated of them sat around reading from the extensive libraries on the walls. A few of them gazed from the barred windows. Others drew or entertained themselves in other ways. Overall, it seemed peaceful, and the inmates seemed well tended to and happy.
The foyer was full of nice furnishings and well-lit, with the large windows that let in the light - and large curtains that could be drawn to shut that light out. Overall, however, it looked a lot like a slightly lower-class nobleman's house. But it was warm, it was comfortable, and it was well decorated with a handful of tapestries and other things to make it feel welcoming.
At night, things didn't turn horrific. True, fog often fell around Iason House thanks to its location, and true it looked very foreboding, but the asylum remained calm and quiet. Candles and chandeliers were lit at night as the inmates were ushered into their bedrooms. A fireplace always roared in the foyer to keep things warm and lit and exude a calm atmosphere.
But, like most any asylum, it held more than a few secrets...
After several days and nights' worth of riding - during which time the group stayed in inns along the roads, inns in towns or villages along the way, or sometimes sleeping by the roadside, they at last reached the city of Killedam*. It was a pleasant, sunny day when they reached the city, and they were largely feeling quite well-rested.
The Templars, Inquisitors, and two Venatori entered Iason House after their leisurely trot through Killedam. Their horses were put away by servants, and now they entered into the foyer of the asylum. The inmates currently allowed at the front of the building all turned to stare with wide eyes, though the eyes of a few betrayed grimmer thoughts about their organizations. The guards standing around kept a close eye on everyone as the large group of armored men and women paraded inside.
Sebastian muttered under his breath, "Iason House... Iaso is the goddess of recuperation from illness. Is this truly recuperation?"
"Don't break the illusion," Ben murmured darkly under his helm.
A warden came forward immediately, giving a brief bow. "When I learned the Templars knew of Juilus, I suspected a visit. Please, come with me. We don't want you startling anyone."
He motioned for them to follow, and he led everyone aside to a relatively narrow corridor lined with doors. Taking out an iron keyring, the warden unlocked a door and led them inside. Ben had to duck slightly to get through that doorway, glancing in warning back to the other particularly tall members of the party, although the ceiling past that door weren't particularly low. Regardless, Ben shifted around in apparent unease...
And he wasn't wrong to do so. They entered into a far less welcoming, stone hall lined with torches. The warden kept walking, leading them deeper and down a spiral staircase, speaking as he went.
"I won't question a bunch of Imperial officials - especially your kind... kinds," said the warden as they walked. "But I would ask that none of you do anything particularly loud or disrupting while you're here. Especially while you're down here. This is where we keep the ones who can't be around others. If we let them, they'd probably end up killing someone. We don't treat them poorly, but we don't want them causing trouble.
"That," he glanced back at everyone, the dark beard shadowing his features looking even more foreboding in the dim torchlight of the halls, "and we have to keep them away from any tools they might use to kill themselves. That applies doubly to Julius Solon."
They entered into a long, dark hall, lined with torches, like the one above the spiral staircase they had descended. The doors in this hall had only a very small window of iron bars at about head height. Otherwise, they were lined with metal and made of thick, heavy wood, all locked tight. Everything else was sturdy, solid stone. A few of the doors they passed by had strange noises coming from them. Some didn't even sound human.
The warden halted before one of those doors, turning to face everyone. He held up a hand for them to stop. The hall they now stood in was about wide enough for three to stand abreast, though some of them were feeling a little crowded, regardless.
Through the opening of the door the warden stopped before, they could all hear low muttering from within. It was low but fast, like a man out of breath, gasping occasionally and murmuring louder, his voice rising in pitch to a point of panic every few seconds.
When the warden spoke again, his voice was considerably lower. "Julius Solon," he said slowly to make sure everyone listened closely, "is one of our worst cases. He speaks nothing but pure madness, and he's tried several times to kill himself. He's scared. Nothing he says makes a whole lot of sense, but I do know this: if he sees any of you Inquisitors, he might just crack even worse. Those of you who have questions for him, tell the Templars or Venatori and let them go in and ask him. He can respond to questions, but the things he says are complete nonsense."
He held up the keys. "So let me make myself especially clear: I can't stop you, I don't have the authority. But I don't want an Inquisitor to walk through this door or even be seen in the doorway. I'm not responsible for what Julius might attempt if he sees another person in solid black with the symbols of the Inquisition. We've done everything in our power to keep him calm and keep him alive."
The warden then slid a key into the lock, though he waited a moment to add, "And try to keep your voices down when the door's open - close it behind you when you go in. He's easily overwhelmed. Anyway, if any of you need to see any of the other inmates for your investigation, I'll let you see them."
"I don't think that'll be necessary," Stevan said, "but thank you."
The warden nodded. "The offer stands, if any of you want or need it."
As he turned the key, Ben turned and strode off back down the hall, disappearing the way they came. Yaroslava glanced at him as he went, but she didn't ask any questions, and she scooted farther away from the door as the warden opened it.
He certainly opened it slowly enough. It swung inwards with an ominous creak to reveal a stone box of a room, its only furnishing a bedroll in the corner and a small candle within a cage hanging high from the ceiling, out of the inmate's reach. A narrow, barred window rested right against the ceiling, just enough to let in some light and fresh air.
In a corner, a man was curled up in tattered clothing, clearly ripped apart by his own hands. He was curled into a fetal position. Other than how disheveled his dark hair was, he didn't look terribly old, and he clearly hadn't been stuck in here very long, particularly as his face only had a thick stubble rather than any kind of heavy beard.
But his blue eyes almost bulged out of his head as he gasped and looked up at whoever entered as they stepped inside. Right now, he stared only at the open door. For the first time in hours, Julius Solon's muttering fell silent.
((*: For a description of Killedam, see the description featured in this zone thread. You are, of course, in this zone, not that one; I'm just linking to it for the sake of description of the city you had to pass through to get to Iason House.))