Saturday, March 30, 2013

Foxglove Manor (03/15/2013)

After this particular Friday night game session the wife and I headed off for a week of vacation in Arizona. I had brought my notes with me and had the best of intentions about completing this recap in a timely fashion while sitting in the warm sun. Alas, vacation mode struck and I didn’t get to it as promptly as I should have. The players had been given a little bit of a hint the previous session as to what was coming this night and all were looking forward to investigating Foxglove Manor (insert evil DM laughter here).

As part of killing off all the scarecrow ghouls at the old Hambley place the party had found a ghast that was dressed in somewhat finer clothes. Besides having been someone that was older than the other ghouls the party had encountered this person also wore a leather cord around with a key around his neck. The old iron key had a distinct heraldic symbol on it - a flower surrounded by thorns. The party knew they had seen this before, and quickly remembered that Aldern Foxglove wore the same symbol. This old man certainly wasn't Aldern, but must have been associated with the Foxglove's in some way. The party - our four intrepid heroes and the three remaining deputies - still weren't sure what was instigating this, but with Foxglove Manor just across the way that seemed like the next logical place to investigate.

The route leading out from Sandpoint to Foxglove Manor was normally a three mile hike along a narrow path that followed the Foxglove River from the covered bridge where it flowed under the Lost Coast Road to the dark sea cliffs overlooking the Varisian Gulf. There wild sea birds called out to a roaring ocean that churned a hundred feet or more below. As the party neared Foxglove Manor it seemed as if nature herself had become sick and twisted. Nettles and thorns grew more prominent, trees were leafless and bent, and the wind seemed unnaturally cold and shrill as it whistled through the cliff-side crags. The path slowly rose, bending around a steep corner in the cliffs, and then Foxglove Manor loomed ahead, seemingly at the edge of the world.

The strangely cold sea wind rose to a keening shriek as Foxglove Manor came into view. The place had earned its local nickname of "The Misgivings" well, for it almost appeared to loathe its perch high above the ocean, as if the entire house were poised for a suicide leap. The roof sagged in many places, and mold and mildew caked the crumbling walls. Vines of diseased-looking gray wisteria look to be strangling the structure in several places, hanging down over the precipitous cliff edge almost like tangled braids of hair. The house was crooked, its gables angling sharply and breached in at least three places, each hastily repaired by planks of sodden wood. Chimneys rose from various points among the rooftops, leaning like old men in a storm, and grinning gargoyle faces leered from under the eaves.

As the party surveyed the estate they could also seem the remainder of what must have been the servant’s quarters that had burned so many years before. The few remaining burnt timbers that still stood simply added to the overall eeriness of the area. It was impossible to tell how many floors the outbuilding that stood here once had, for all that remained were the sooty, scorched stones of its foundation. To the east a four-foot-wide stone wall sat, partially collapsed, in the corner of the ruins. A few sickly looking ravens were perched atop the foundation stones, but they flew clumsily away as the party approached. Between the rubble of the servants quarters and the manor house stood a well, the round three foot high rock structure still standing, although perilously so. Kheo started to investigate the well further, but a portion of the well collapsed as he leaned over to see what was inside, with Kheo narrowly avoiding taking a tumble.

DM note: The DM had given the players a bit of a preview of what was to come the previous week, but backed things up a bit this week to allow the players to approach and then enter the house of their own accord.

As the party moved up to the house they could see there were two entrances. An obvious main entrance sat straight ahead and then an entrance to the left leading into a room that angled off from the house. For as gloomy as the house looked, all the windows seemed to be intact, and the drawn curtains inside of the windows could only give the faintest glimpse into the interior of the house.

Stike forced open a door at the main entrance. Decay abounded inside Foxglove Manor. Ceilings sagged, plaster swelled, and timbers rotted. Inside, doors were often wedged shut by dampness and rot. Mold and stains marred walls and floors, often in strangely unsettling patterns. Rooms were unlit; during the day the grime and mold encrusting the windows filtered the sunlight to dim light within. The smell of decaying wood, the periodic groaning of the house's joists reacting to unaccustomed movement within, a dusty mound of dead flies on a windowsill, and the overall air of ancient neglect brought to mind one overarching question - what was going on here?

The first room entered was a large entrance hall. The sound of the house straining and creaking gave this long, high-ceilinged room an additional sense of age and decay. The place smelled damp, the unpleasant tinge of mold lacing the air, as surely as it stained the wooden floor, walls, and furniture in pallid patches. Moldering trophies hung on the wall to the northeast: a boar, a bear, a firepelt cougar, and a stag, yet they paled in comparison to the monster on display in the center of the room. Here crouched a twelve-foot-long creature with the body of a lion, a scorpion's tail fitted with dozens of razor barbs, huge bat-like wings, and a deformed humanoid face – a stuffed manticore.

As the party started to move into the room several of the group reported that they heard distinct sound of a woman crying coming from upstairs. Not all heard it though, and upon taking a second listen the sound was gone – perhaps it had just been the wind.  With another step into the room the stuffed manticore suddenly seemed to flame to life and struck at Stike with its stinger tail.

Burning Manticore Haunt
The attack narrowly missed Stike, and just as quickly as the beast had animated itself in a flaming attack it resumed its previous form of that of a stuffed beast. Regardless the party quickly pounced and sliced the inanimate object into little pieces. Further investigation revealed it wasn’t a trap, nor was it magical in nature.

The party then moved down the hallway toward the back of the house. There they discovered a rather gruesome antique - what appears to be a mummified monkey head that hung on the northern wall, its tiny mouth gaped open and a bell-pull extended from the mouth. Kheo resisted his natural urge to tug on the bell pull, but removed the monkey head from the wall and placed in it his backpack. A ratty throw rug partially obscured a foul stain of dark-colored mold on the floor and the party carefully skirted around the discolored portion of the floor.

In the back of the house the party entered a large dining room. A mahogany table surrounded by chairs sat in this room. Twin fireplaces loomed to the west, while to the east stained glass windows curiously obscured what could have been a breathtaking view of the Lost Coast. Each window depicted a monster rising out of smoke pouring from a seven-sided box. From north to south were depicted a gnarled tree with an enraged face, an immense hook-beaked bird with sky-blue and gold plumage, a winged centaur-like creature with a lion's lower body and a snarling woman's upper torso, and a deep blue squid-like creature with evil red eyes. Reynard was able to identify several of the creatures depicted in the stand glass windows – a treant, a roc, not sure what the third one was (a sphinx), and then a kraken – but as to what their symbolism was he could not guess.

The party then moved next into a room south of the dining room. This dusty lounge featured a long couch caked with white sheets of wispy fungus. Eddies of dust skittered along the warped floorboards as if caught up by a slight breeze, yet no wind was noticeable in the air. Several of the party members noticed the disturbances in the dust looked as if they were caused by an invisible person pacing about the room. Each party member suddenly had a quiet sense that a woman in that room was having serious concerns as to what her husband was doing on those late nights in the basement

Suddenly Kheo’s deputy grabbed Selinor’s deputy and insisted that he would take him to safety. This odd behavior caught everyone’s attention, and Selinor motioned for his deputy to simply go along with whatever was happening. The two entangled deputies moved back through the house, out the front door, and down the porch steps. As soon as he stepped onto the ground the ensorcelled deputy regained his senses, wondering aloud as to why the party had moved back outside. He also said he had heard a voice say “Lorey” but as to who that was he could not say.

Before moving back in the house the party noticed that the flock of 4-5 ravens had grown to 9-10. Selinor threw a rock at the ravens and they flew away, circled, and then approximately 15 ravens settled back onto the ruins of the servant’s quarters, all simply staring at the party members with their dark dead eyes.

The party retraced their steps and moved to the room up the hallway from the lounge. This was a simple washroom. An ancient metal washtub stood to the north, a ring of mildew that crusted its inner surface. A strange, furtive scratching came from inside the tub and there the party saw an oddly diseased rat trying to climb its way out of the tub. The party had heard there were rats in this house and quickly put this one of its misery before the panicked creature could escape the tub.

Diseased Rat
The next room down the hall was a dancing parlor: The oak-paneled chamber must have once been breathtaking, but now was a sad sight. The floorboards were warped with moisture and the paneling scratched and spotted with mold. A grand piano, its surface splotchy and keys warped, leaned tiredly in the southeast corner.

As the party stepped into the room the piano began to play a rather catchy Varisian song. This time it was Stike’s deputy that reacted to the haunt by beginning to dance around the room. Almost as quickly as the dance began it was over and the deputy collapsed to the floor. As he regained his composure the deputy asked if the rest of the party had seen the dark haired woman he had been dancing with. They hadn’t of course, and again the investigation revealed no traps or magical devices to be found.

The party then moved to the other side of the first floor and entered another room. This cozy-looking drawing room was marred by the unnatural dampness and the thick sheets of mold that clung to the curtains closed over the southern window. Kheo moved one of the curtains to glance outside and was greeted by the vision of a woman’s face that appeared in the window in front of him. Startled, Kheo stumbled back, but when he looked again the face was gone.

The adjacent room was found to be a library. This library featured two chairs, one of which lay on its side, before a stone fireplace. A scarf, its reds and golds contrasting with the drab palette of the room, was draped over the side of the fallen chair. A book sat face down on the floor between the chairs. A stone bookend, carved to look like a praying angel with butterfly wings, lay on its side in the fireplace itself. As the party stepped into the room the scarf flew across the room and wrapped itself around one of the deputy's throat. The deputy managed to disentangle himself from the murderous scarf, and reported that he had seen a beautiful dark haired woman with her hands on the scarf and choking him.

By now the party was beginning to put together some of the clues. They still weren’t sure exactly who the people were that were appearing in the visions, but it seemed likely that these hauntings were somehow related to things that had happened here previously. Given what the party knew of the Foxglove family history, it was not going to be a pleasant story. In fact the bookend was found to have bits of blood and hair on it – whose blood and whose hair?

With the downstairs investigation now completed the party moved up to the second floor. The first room encountered was determined to have likely been the childhood bedroom of Aldern Foxglove. This bedroom featured a child-sized bed, a chair next to a toy box, and a looming stone fireplace big enough for a child to get lost in. The story was that Aldern and his sister had been found cowering in this room after his parents were found dead. This time is was Selinor's turn to have a vision - a terrified child watched his crazed mother advance on hm while carrying a well-worn torch, only to have a tumor infested father interrupt her and the two have a deadly fight. And as before, the vision was gone as quick as it had manifested itself.

The next room visited was a musicians gallery that featured two padded chairs and a long couch facing a wide alcove lined with stained glass windows. These windows depicted a diverse array of animals and plants - from north to south were a large pale and ghostly scorpion, a gaunt man holding out his arms as a dozen bats hung from him, a moth with a strange skull-like pattern on its wings, a tangle of dull green plants with bell-shaped flowers, and a young maiden sitting astride a well in a forest while a spindly spider the size of a dog descended along a string of webbing above her.

The elements depicted in the colored glass of the windows struck a chord with Reynard. After some deliberation Reynard declared these were the necessary spell components for necromancy magic (scorpion venom, vampire's breath, the tongues of deathwing moths, belladonna, and the heart of a maiden slain by poison). Perhaps one of the Foxglove's was a lich?

The next room was a guest bedchamber. This entire bedroom was caked with a thick, spongy layer of dark green, blue, and black mold. The party made an effort to not touch or disturb the growth, but suddenly Stike's deputy collapsed to the floor in terror, his finger nails scratching at his face while he blubbered about the tumors and diseases that were eating his face. It took several minutes for the deputy to regain his composure and for the party to reassure him it was just another haunt and he truly was not disfigured.

The next room was an upstairs washroom. An iron tub sat in the middle of this room, the floorboards around it sagging with the tub's weight. The party opted to not investigate this room further - the floor looked just too weak.

The last room on the second floor was a Master Bedroom: This once fine chamber had been destroyed. The bed was smashed, mattress torn apart, walls gouged as if by knives, chairs hacked apart, and paintings on the walls torn to pieces - with one exception. A portrait that hung on the northwest wall seemed to be untouched, although it hung backward, its unseen subject facing the wall.

After some discussion the party decided to turn the portrait around. There they stared at a beautiful Varisian woman. Several party members reported they had seen this woman in some of their visions, but who was she?

Iesha's Portrait
Suddenly Reynard was overcome with a rage and made efforts to throw himself from one of the windows. The party intervened and soon his rage passed and quickly as it had arisen.

DM Note: If I had been thinking I would have made of the deputies a female so that Reynard's rage would have been directed in a different fashion.

With no more of the second floor to inspect the party reassessed what they had learned about the horrors of Foxglove Manor, but there were still many unanswered questions. After a brief rest the party moved upstairs to the attic. The party first found several storerooms and a work area where the roof had been roughly patched, but several patches of the sky were clearly visible through the cracks.

The next room entered was a bedroom. The furniture in this bedroom, while dusty and unkempt, did not exhibit any major signs of water or mold damage. The one exception was a dark stain on the desk near the northern window. As the party moved in to inspect the room Kheo suddenly grabbed at a silver knife on the desk and attempted to stab himself. Just as quickly as the urge it occurred it dissipated, leaving Kheo slightly hurt and holding a bloodied piece of wood, not a silver dagger as he had envisioned.

In the corner of the attic was a smaller room, a loft. The ceiling of this room angled down steeply, leaving only four feet of headroom to the southeast. A low cot and a dresser are the room's only furnishings. Several suits of clothes were found here, and the party surmised that this had been the butler's quarters, and the ghast they had killed out at Hambley's Farm earlier that night must have been the butler for the house.

The next was room was easily identified as an Observatory. A desk and a chair sat in the middle of this drafty room. Chimneys rose to the west, while to the east two intricate stained-glass windows were set into the wall. The northern window depicted a dark-haired woman with pale skin, large green eyes, and a black-and-red gown; with both hands she wielded a jagged iron staff. The southern window's lower half has been broken and patched with canvas; what remained of its upper half depicts a handsome man dressed in regal finery and a crown of ivory and jade. Small scorch marks marred the wood near the broken window. A battered and ruined telescope lay on its side near the desk and a large trap door in the roof has been tied shut by several lengths of rope.

The party knew the wife of Traver Foxglove had been killed when she jumped - or was thrown - onto the rocks below, and the broken window gave hint that the terrible accident had occurred from this position. Suddenly Stike was overcome with an urge that he was burning and the only way to relieve the burning sensation was to exit through the window, which he did so successfully. Once out on the slippery roof tiles he fell and began to slide toward the roof's edge and towards the rocks far, far below. A weather vain broke his fall and the party was able to pull him safely back into the house.

The next room was a private study. Shelves of books lined the walls of this room, interspersed with curious objects such as skulls fitted with stubs of candles, tribal fetishes, and decorative scroll cases. An empty birdcage lay near the southern wall beside a small desk and a fine leather chair. Peculiar looking statues and sculptures grinned from all corners of the room.

Kheo suddenly began to experience dozens of memories as memories of expeditions, sea voyages, and travels to exotic locales race through his mind. As the memories began to build momentum they become increasingly infused with a sense of bitter disappointment and regret, the regret of someone who sat in that room and experienced the disappointment of chances not taken, adventures not attempted, and glories unfulfilled.

The next room entered was a gallery. A stone fireplace sat in the northwestern portion of this chamber and paintings hung on the walls to the north and south, each covered over with a thick sheet of dusty cobwebs that obscured its subject from view. After some more discussion the party decided to remove the obscuring web and view the portraits.

Suddenly the riddle of Foxglove family became more clear. Among the portraits was Vorel Foxglove, the builder and original inhabitant of Foxglove Manor, and his wife Kasandra and their daughter Lorey. There was also a series of portraits that included Traver and Cyralie Foxglove, Aldern's parents and the second inhabitants of Foxglove Manor. There were also portraints of Aldern and both of his sisters, Sendali and Zeeva.

Just as the last drape of webs were removed from the portraits breath's suddenly frosted in the air and fingers of rime slithered across the walls. The figures depicted in the portraits suddenly shifted from paintings of living people to those of dead folk. Kasanda and Lorey slumped into misshapen, tumor-ridden corpses. Traver grew pale as a long cut opens in his throat and blood washed down over his chest. Cyralie blackened and charred, and her arms, legs, and back twisted as if broken in dozens of places. Aldern's flesh darkened with rot, his hair fell out, and he deformed into a ghoul-like monster. Both Sendeli's and Zeeva's portraits frosted over but otherwise remain unchanged. Vorel's entire portrait, frame and all, erupted into a sudden explosion of fungus and tumorous growth. This wave of fungus and disease washed over the entire room in seconds - and then the room returned to normal.

At this point the party thought they had figured out much of the family tree. Vorel had spent much time in the basement, much to Kasandra's worry, and something must have gone terribly wrong and Kasandra had been unable to protect their daughter Lorey from whatever his experiments had created. Traver had also become infected with the disease of the house, and Cyralie had burned the servants quarters and had attempted to burn the manor house as well in order to cleanse the manor of its evil nature. Traver and Cyralie fought, the children saw them fighting, Cyralie had ended up on the rocks below and Traver ended up dead by his own hand.

That left only Iesha - her portrait was in the bedroom, Aldern had been the last to live in the house, she must have been Aldern's wife, but no clue as to her whereabouts had been revealed.

The last room in the attic looked to be another loft room, similar to the one where the butler resided. This room was cold and damp; an old armoire stood near the east wall. The ceiling sloped down to only four feet high to the northeast, leaving little room for a small window. A full-size mirror in a dark wooden frame of coiling roses leaned against these bricks, angled toward the tiny window.

From the corner of the room a woman arose and shrieked, "Aldern! I can smell your fear! You'll be in my arms soon!" The woman, clearly an undead version of Iesha Foxglove, moved slowly but steadily towards the door. The party scrambled out of the way and let her pass, and then followed her has she made her way down the stairs all the way to the first floor.

Iesha Foxglove
There the woman moved to the mold covered spot between the dining room and mainentrance and began to tear at the floorboards, eventually creating an opening into the basement. She disappeared down the hole and the party continued to follow.

Once in the basement Iesha moved to a pit that had been recently dug in the basement floor and she disappeared down this hole as well. Like before the party continued to follow and found themselves in a large natural cavern below the house. Iesha continued on unabated into the darkness, but the party found themselves attacked by two different sets of ghouls, but the ghouls qere quickly dispatched and the party continued on, hoping to catch up with Iesha.

In a large room the party spied Iesha as she clawed at a sturdy stone door located neat the bottom of a large vent. Fresh ocean water lapped at the bottom of a large vent, and the party was forced to move carefully down the sides to get to the door. Iehsa stopped her mad clawing at the door long enough for the party to pick the lock.

The air in this damp cavern room reeked of a horrific stench - a foul combination of decay, brine, and mold. The cave contained a rickety table, its damp surface cluttered with all manner of what appears to be garbage: empty bottles, bits of clothing, crumpled bits of paper, and more, lying in neatly organized rows. A painting leaned against the far side of the table, facing a large leather chair that sat nearby. This chair's high back and cushion were horribly stained by smears of rotten meat and its arms were sticky with blood.

A smaller table sat against the southern wall, its surface heaped with plates and platters of rotten, maggot-infested meat. The horrific stench of the room seemed strongest to the west, where the cave's wall had been overtaken by a horrific growth of dark green mold and dripping fungi. At the center a patch of black tumescent fungus grew, its horny ridges and tumor-like bulbs having formed what could almost be taken to be a humanoid outline. What appeared to have once been an exquisite puzzle box the size of a man's fist lay smashed on the ground at the feet of the fungoid shape.

Aldern Foxglove
As the group moved into the room the strange and twisted form of Aldern Foxglove rose to meet them, his vision fixed firmly on Selinor. "You live! Well and good, for now I shall have the reward of tasting your heart while it is yet warm ..." but his sentence went incomplete as Iesha appeared in the room and the two monsters stared at each other. Confronted by the presence of Iesha, Foxglove shrieked out in grief and fell to his knees to beg forgiveness from his murdered wife. For a brief moment, as Iesha caressed his sallow cheek, it appeared that she might have been willing to forgive - yet a moment later, she shrieked in rage and attacked him.

As both monsters flailed at each other the party members were in a quandary. If they helped to kill one, certainly the other would then turn on them. It was soon decided that if Iesha hadn't attacked them yet then perhaps helping to kill Aldern - or whatever he had become - was the best bet. Arrows and spells were hurled, and along with several telling blows from Iesha and Aldern Foxglove soon lay dead - dead for good this time - on the floor of the cavern.

Not knowing what to expect next the party silently held its breath - and then the body of Iesha Foxglove tumbled to the foor, the two lovers now rejoined in death. Reynard explained she must have been a Revenant - an undead that only remained "alive" long enough to find and then avenge her murder on the person that had killed them.

Asthe party carefully poked through the belongings on the table and on Alderns body they found two keys. The larger of these two was a tarnished iron key set with a round opal worth 100 gp. The smaller key was made of bronze and has an unusually long tang ending in a set of three notched blades. The head of this key resembled a roaring lion. The party also found a letter in a scroll case that contained a handwritten note:

Xaresha's Letter
On the body of Aldern the party found a +1 War Razor, +1 Leather Armor, a Ring of Jumping, a +1 Ring of Protection, 200 GP, and a Stalker's Mask. Kheo claimed the mask and the Ring of Jumping, and Selinor was happy to be able to slip on the +1 Ring of Protection.

The shattered box on the ground was identified by Reynard as the likely remains of Vorel's phylactery. Something must have gone wrong in the transformation, resulting in the wall of foul mold and fungi that likely held his body. This could be destroyed, but would require someone of a much higher level spell casting ability to do the deed properly.

The party retraced their steps out of the cavern and back up into the basement. Their they found a kitchen and some additional servants quarters, along with a pantry and the remnants of a destroyed wine cellar.

The party also found a basement workshop. This room looked to have once been some sort of arcane workshop, although it now lay in ruin. A row of soggy books sat on the northern end of a workbench along the western wall. At the other end of the workbench, what looked like three iron birdcages sat, each containing a dead diseased rat. To the east two stained-glass windows loomed. The northern window depicted a thin man with gaunt features drinking a foul-looking brew of green fluid, while the southern one shows the same man but in an advanced state of decay, as if he had been dead for several weeks. His arms were raised and head thrown back in triumph, his rotting body turned to smoke and spirals into a seven-sided box. Vorel Foxglove had no doubt eagerly planned his ascendance to lichdom, only to have horribly failed.

Further investigation revealed the birdcages were relatively new as compared to the other items in the room. Each cage bore the mark "Pugs Contraptions - Magnimar" as etched onto the bottom. The diseased rats in the cages gave hint to them being used as delivery vehicles for the "harvest" mentioned in the letter. Who was Xanesha? How did she figure into this, and into Aldern's transformation? The answers likely lay in Magnimar, but for now it was time for the party to get out of the house and head back to Sandpoint.

And we will pick it up from there the next time we meet - Friday, March 28th, back at Corky's.

For tonight's efforts each party members earned 3205 XP, giving them (15,595 + 3205) 18,880 XP earned so far, with 23,000 XP required to reach Level 6. Note: The deputies that accompanied the party were most grateful for the XP they earned for their part in eliminating the ghouls and investigating Foxglove Manor

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