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Servants living at (or visiting) Highdark Hall will doubtless hear many of the following rumors. Upper class characters may hear them from their valets or lady’s maids. Some of rumors involve assertions of an extremely scandalous nature, and will only be told to people the teller trusts.
Naturally, many of the rumors contradict each other. The Player Characters will have to investigate if they want to know the truth.
Please note that some of the rumors contain mature themes, and will not be appropriate for all gaming groups.
Everyone is afraid of the twins girls, Julia and Juno. Their Nurse has particular reason to be terrified. She says that often she sees them facing the corner of the room, talking together to somebody that only they can see. They tend to disappear whenever they go walking outside, only to reappear in the nursery without anyone having seen them enter the house. And the cruel tricks those two little monsters play on that poor woman! Once they ripped out all the stuffing from her pillow and replaced it with dirt, earthworms, and rotting birds. Miss Forest even says that she tried smashing and burying the porcelain doll that the girls claim performs all their mischief. The next morning the girls had the doll, and it was perfectly intact.
Everyone knows that Lady Constance‘s mother was married to the first cousin of Lord Nathaniel‘s father. What they don’t know is that Lady Constance’s mother and Lord Nathaniel’s father were also secretly lovers. One has to wonder what that might mean for the Lord and Lady.
Lord Nathaniel is a compulsive gambler. Cards, horses, dice – he never declines an opportunity to wager. The family will be ruined soon if he doesn’t stop. Apparently, he has arranged to marry off Georgina to a banker in order settle his debts.
If you listen at the doors to the Sealed Wing you can sometime the sounds of tapping, moaning, and furniture moving. You must never try to go in there. Fifteen years ago Lord Nathaniel’s brother Peter, who was Lord of Highdark before him, committed suicide in one of the bedrooms, along with his wife’s Lady’s Maid. Apparently the two were so mad with love for each other that they would rather die together than ever be apart. Don’t believe anyone who maligns Lord Peter’s memory and says the two deaths happened differently. Also, the subsequent disappearance of the former Lord’s wife is completely unconnected, no matter what anybody else implies.
Lady Constance is pregnant again, but she and Lord Nathaniel have only recently been reunited after traveling separately for months. She may be going on a trip to continent again soon, probably for the better part of a year. Best not to ask too many questions after she returns.
The Housekeeper has had to discipline the Hall Maid several times in the past month. Glasses break, oil drips from the ceiling, and loud banging sounds are often heard when the girl is near. Mrs. Biddle is sure the brat is doing it all, although Miss Weaver denies it and blames everything on someone she calls “Charley”. Miss Weaver also claims that the rats in the basement have their own Sovereign and Parliament.
Sean the Handyman is very handy indeed with a blade. He’s been seen killing rats with thrown kitchen knives! He’s also admitted to have come to the house in order to hunt something that he claims has “existed here for too long”. You have to wonder what he means.
People frequently go missing from Highdark Hall. The fairy Queen of the Night sometimes attends parties and balls held at the house, looking for men to abduct. Sometime she takes a woman instead. No one she takes is ever seen again.
The Sealed Wing isn’t haunted, no matter what you’ve heard. The truth is the roof leaks, and when it rains water comes down from the attic. The Altumbers sealed the wing and invented the ghost story so they wouldn’t have to admit that they can’t afford to make the necessary repairs. Lord Peter may have died in there, but he certainly doesn’t haunt the rooms. And his wife’s Lady’s Maid wasn’t ever here when she died!
The Housekeeper is actually a lost relative of the Altumbers. Her mother was the illegitimate daughter of Lord Nathaniel’s maternal uncle. One wonders if she will try to confront Lord Nathaniel with this information.
The Butler doesn’t drink so much on account of the horrible things he did in the army, but because of the horrible things he’s been asked to do at Highdark Hall. He makes frequent trips to the attic, for reasons unknown to anyone else. He forbids any of the other servants to go up there.
The house is riddled with secret passages and peepholes. Lord Nathaniel uses them to spy on his guests. Some people think the house is haunted, but the strange sounds they hear are only Lord Nathaniel walking in the hollow walls.
The previous Lady of Highdark never truly went missing. She went mad from the syphilis that Lord Peter gave her, and had to be confined in the house. If she is still alive it is somehow being kept secret.
Last week the Housekeeper found a coded message folded up and hidden in a tree hollow. Someone in the house is a spy, probably for the French. They could also be in league with the government of the former American colonies.
There is a network of secret passages in the Lady’s Wing of the house. They were installed by Lord Nathaniel’s grandmother to move her lovers around without detection. Their location and use has been kept secret by the women of the Altumber family since then, revealed only to the Lady’s Maids, and certain handsome Footmen.
Lord Nathaniel sometimes asks servants to let themselves be seduced by visitors to the house. Afterwards he will them to tell him everything about the encounter. Some of the servants think he uses the information for extortion. Some think he just enjoys the stories.
Apparently, a recent house guest of some importance asked the kitchen maid Siobhan to ride his back like he was a horse, hit him with a riding crop, and curse at him in Irish. Siobhan doesn’t even know how to speak Irish, so she just invented some words that sounded nasty. He never knew the difference. Also, there was a carrot involved.
There is a secret room in the Basement, which can be accessed from somewhere on the Ground Floor. It was formerly used for blasphemous, pagan rites. There are whispers that at least one member of the family still visits that room, for reasons best left unknown.
The real business of the Altumbers is espionage, and they have been spies for centuries. Enemies of the crown often have fatal accidents and illnesses around the time that they visit, or are visited by, the Altumbers. Many of the people who supposedly disappeared mysteriously from Highdark Hall were actually assassinated by the Altumbers.
Before Lord Nathaniel’s time, prostitutes would be brought to the house for gatherings of the most extreme immorality. It all happened in some secret part of the house that the servants can’t access. Not all of the women who came here left Highdark Hall alive. Some never left the house at all.
Georgina is in love with the foundling Henry Peak, but come December she is being taken to London to find a suitable husband. She cries every night because she will never be allowed to marry the man she loves. If you suggest that she should just take Henry as a lover after she is married she gets even more upset, because she thinks that’s a terrible thing to do. She mustn’t think much of Miss Ravenscroft in that case! Georgina says she prays that one day everyone will be able to marry who they want to. She’s a strange girl, with strange ideas.
Stay out of the Trophy Room between midnight and dawn. In the small hours the heads of the animals will change position, and the floor will be paced by something invisible, save for a pair of eyes that glow green in the dark.
Henry and Georgina are planning to elope soon. Lord Nathaniel would simply disown both of them, but Georgina’s brother will murder Henry if he ever finds out. Harold is extremely jealous of any man looking at his sister. Sometimes you can catch Harold himself looking at her in a way that a brother shouldn’t.
If you listen in the Grey Drawing Room you can hear the sound of tapping, coming from the ceiling. The sound comes from the ghosts who haunt the Sealed Wing of the floor above.
Sometimes the Lunar Ballroom smells like jasmine flowers, even when it hasn’t been used for weeks. When that happens, if you look up to the balcony you will see a masked woman, dressed in black velvet. If you meet her gaze you will surely die within the month.
If Highdark Hall is ever threatened the bronze statue of Lord Gerald Altumber will come to life and defend the house. Sometimes the statue’s hands change their pose, always when no one can see it happen.
One of the Lady’s Maids is a thief. She works with someone outside the house to fence the stolen items.
Sometimes you can hear the pianoforte in the Music Room playing, but when you enter the room the music stops, and nobody is there.
On certain nights of the full moon you can hear the sound of crashing waves in the Rocaille Room. When that happens the transparent form of a mermaid will be seen on the couch in the room. She never says anything. In the morning, the couch will be wet.
The Lord’s Mistress, Mary Ravenscroft, sometimes says strange things about defying death and perfecting the human race. She also claims that minds of women are equal to those of men, and so they ought to be able to vote and serve in Parliament! She has been pregnant twice since she’s come to Highdark Hall, but both times the baby was born dead. Nobody knows what happened to the bodies, however. Furthermore, she was supposedly enticed to come to Highdark Hall with the promise that she could pursue her personal research, whatever that is. Nobody has ever seen her do any experiments, however.
If any of the female servants find themselves in trouble on account of indulging the men of Highdark Hall, they see the Cook, Josephine. She knows how to make such problems go away, so the women aren’t forced to leave the house. That’s why none of them, except the Mrs. Biddle the Housekeeper, will ever say a word against her. She also has pacts with the Fairy Folk, and can stop wounds from bleeding. At least once she has used her peculiar knowledge to help Lord Nathaniel resolve the problem of a family associate who stayed inconveniently alive.
Highdark Hall is built atop a site where human sacrifices were made in Celtic times. One of the victims was the daughter of a clan chief, killed to ensure a good harvest. She cannot rest, and on certain nights she walks through Highdark Hall, seeking vengeance.
Lady Constance was in her Boudoir the other night with the Footman Isaac Parson. She was dressed like a gentlemen of fashion, while Mr. Parson was wearing a woman’s wig and one of the Lady’s gowns. What else they did, however, was performed in the usual manner of a man and a woman.
The rats in the Basement are very strange. If you watch them, you will see that they are talking to each other. What’s more, you might see one disappear into a wall, with no hole visible for it to have gone into.