With our business concluded at Habe’s Sanatorum, we begin today’s session by heading off on our horses to the farmlands. It doesn’t take long for us to reach the massive fields of unharvested wheat, along with our first scarecrow. Remembering what the farmer said before about scarecrows carrying people off, Eric pokes the straw-filled figure with his warhammer. The scarecrow doesn’t react, and we head up a trail that we believe will lead toward a farmhouse and barn.
The story takes a very Children of the Corn-esque turn as a ghoul-crow and what used to be a farming family viciously attack us. While we manage to kill the ghouls quickly, both Wallace and Aella sustain injuries with necrotic filth setting into the wounds. A little further down the path, we find the farmhouse and barn. We notice what we think is a Thassilonian ruin known locally as the Stone Warrior forming part of the barn’s structure. While we stare at the odd building, another group of ghouls comes out of the townhouse to welcome us to the farm.
This group is led by a particularly pernicious one-earred fellow who stinks to high heaven. Wallace takes more bites on his wrist, but the group succeeds in defeating the rest of the ghoul farm community in the immediate vicinity. The one-earred creature has the Foxglove family crest on him, along with a key. Our suspicions of Aldern Foxglove continue to mount, and we warily make our way into the farmhouse.
The house smells terrible, mostly owing to the decaying corpse of the farmer on the kitchen table. Like other recent murder victims, he has the Sihedron rune carved into his chest. Aella finds another creepy note with her name on it and wishes aloud that she had simply killed Foxglove when we went hunting together. Not wanting to risk attracting attention by heating water over a fire, Wallace and Aella clean their wounds with soap and cold water before we continue our investigation of the house. There isn’t much of interest, other than a locked coffer beneath a loose floorboard that contains the farmer’s silver stash. The barn proves even less interesting, with cracked bones being about the only surprise.
Eric builds a successful pyre to burn the bodies, managing to avoid burning down the wheat fields in the process. Wallace says a few words, and everyone has to step away from the smell as the bodies burn. While we watch the cremation, we recall as a group that the old Foxglove manor isn’t far from here. Before we investigate the mansion, however, we return to the Sanatorum to check on progress. Jimmy the Guard meets us shortly before the locksmith finishes freeing the two inmates. We all return to Sandpoint together, where we speak with the Sheriff and talk about our progress.
After selling off our most recently acquired loot, we enjoy a delicious meal at the Rusty Dragon. While Wallace and Aella re-treat their wounds with hot water, Eric heads off to the Cathedral to discuss our conditions with Father Zantus. The cleric of Desna agrees to magically examine Wallace, and determines quickly that the Ragathiel Crusader has Ghoul Fever. They elect to keep Wallace in the Cathedral Infirmary overnight in case his condition worsens. Eric stays near to “deal” with any behavioral problems from the cleric, and Aella stays in case she has the same condition. Zazzaxian pulls out a sleeping bag and sticks with his group of friends.
It’s a tense night, with Wallace dreaming that everyone around him is made of meat and he’s very hungry, but Father Zantus arrives in the morning prepared to remove the disease. After a quick breakfast in the Cathedral, we head out to the street only for Jimmy the Guard to find us and summon us to another grisly crime scene at the meat market. This time, it’s the butcher who is dead with a Sihedron rune carved into his chest. We look around and find more ghoul footprints leading toward the harbor, as well as yet another note from Aella’s not-so-secret admirer. With no further ado, we ride for Foxglove Manor.
We come to our destination on top of a hill on a cliffside. The mansion looks mildewy and forbidding even from the outside. The 80-year-old place is known as the Misgivings, and its bad reputation looks deserved. We try the key from the one-earred creature, unlocking the door to find ourselves in a room with a statue of a manticore. This place immediately gives us the creeps as we hear sobbing for a moment upstairs. Eric’s shoulder gets a serious workout this afternoon as he has to keep ramming the doors that have swollen with moisture in order to open them. Our first sign of trouble is a blind and diseased rat attacking Eric, but it’s soon to get much worse.
As we enter the next room, Aella notices that something invisible seems to be pacing the floor near the fireplace. Eric heads over to take a closer look, and his eyes glaze over. Unknown to us at first, he experiences a memory that isn’t his. He sees himself as a woman and Wallace as a child that he needs to remove from the house. He tells us the strange story when he comes to, but we press forward.
The next room proves to the first of many featuring stained glass windows. All the creatures pictured in these windows seem to be full of fear, and probably not just because we find a mummified monkey head in the room. We continue exploring, coming to a room with a scarf that mysteriously moves. Aella takes point here, grabbing the scarf. Despite her incredible strength, however, the scarf escapes her grip and begins to suffocate Wallace. The cleric has a vision that he is Aldern’s wife and that the husband is strangling him with the scarf. Eric has to lay on hands for Wallace to bring him back to consciousness after the near-suffocation.
After quick healing, we continue our tour of the ground floor of the haunted house, seeing stairs going both up and down. We start by checking out the basement. Eric opens a door to a swarm of rats that attacks us. While sustaining some itchy rat bites, Zazz blasts several of them with his burning hands attack while the rest of us bludgeon them to death with our weapons. Our exploration of the basement doesn’t take long, though we find one iron door that we can’t get through yet without a key. We set off for the second floor, hoping to find said key while avoiding these mysterious haunts.
That turns out to be extremely wishful thinking, however, as we come to a bedroom with a stained desk. As the others look on, Zazz is taken with a vision of having killed the one he loved the most. In his despair, he tries to slit his own throat with a dagger in the desk. Luckily, Eric notices what he’s doing and knocks the dagger away before Zazz can do a lethal amount of damage to himself. Eric heals him back to consciousness before we continue. We find more stained glass windows, along with a child’s bedroom in which Aella envisions her two “parents” trying to kill each other. Our Shoanti friend’s torment doesn’t ease up in the next major room, as she becomes convinced that a portion of the skin on her face is becoming tumorous and disgusting. Wallace and Eric frantically channel positive energy before Aella can rip her own face off from the haunt.
The next stop is another wash basin. In trying to investigate what might be within, Eric accidentally falls through the floor back to the first level. He rejoins us upstairs before we find a room that is completely destroyed save for a painting turned backwards. Never one to pass up a dangerous opportunity, Eric turns the painting around. He is struck by a wave of sadness and then fear. The haunt gives him a feeling of strong misogynistic rage, and Eric wants to kill Aella. He resists this urge, instead turning his rage on the painting and freeing himself from it.
Further exploration leads to a staircase leading up to an attic. The number of doors in this place continues to add up as we find eight more in the attic. Most of them lead to empty storage space, but one down the hall has stained glass windows depicting nasty necromancers. Before stepping inside what could be another dangerous room, Eric asks Aella to tie a rope around him that she and Wallace can hold. Once stepping inside, the paladin starts sweating and smelling burning flesh. He comes to the conclusion that he is on fire and needs to leap out the window. Wallace and Aella try to hold on to the rope, Eric swinging fists at them and connecting Aella. Zazz slows him down by greasing the floor beneath him, and Wallace’s curing wand eventually wakes him up. Running low on morale by this point, our group still explores the last two doors in the attic. The first is room full of books which gives Zazz memories of regret, but at least nothing terrible happens to him.
The last room seems to contain the sobs we heard earlier. Inside is a full-length mirror facing the wall. Out of patience for haunts and other horrors, Aella smashes the mirror. Behind the now-shattered mirror, the undead corporeal form of Aldern Foxglove’s wife Iesha reveals herself. Her voice causes Zazz and Aella to cower in fear, leaving just Wallace and Eric in front of her. She tells us to get out of the way, but Wallace resists. Eric lands one shot on her, inflicting damage as he smites evil. She steps up to the cleric and brings him down in one swift stroke. Realizing this undead wife means serious business, Eric lets her go and turns his attention on healing Wallace. The others emerge from their fear and the group is left alive but in shambles. Running low on energy, health, and sanity, the team has more work to do in Foxglove Manor. Whether their quest proves successful, whether they survive more encounters with the supernatural, and whether Aldern Foxglove awaits behind the locked door in the basement are among the questions that could be answered in the next bone-chilling episode of Rise of the Runelords.