Rise of the Runelords

The Misgivings

20 Lamashan, 4707

The heroes continue to explore the musty old house, but much more cautiously, recognizing that spectral energies flow through the rooms.

Exploring past the entrance hall, with its mouldering trophies, the heroes find a gruesome antique, a mummified monkey’s head with a bellpull extending from its mouth. A mildewed throw rug covers a foul stain of dark mold on the floor in the hallway connecting the entrance hall to the dining room. In the dining room, strange stained-glass windows obscure what should be a spectacular view of the Varisian Gulf. The windows depict a treant, a roc, a sphinx, and a kraken each emerging from (or vanishing into) the smoke spiralling out of a seven-sided puzzle box.

The men backtrack through the entrance hall and explore the unnaturally damp drawing room, which is darkened due to the thick sheets of mold clinging to the curtains of the windows. After a struggle with the damp, swollen wood of the door, the men enter the library.

Some sort of a struggle has obviously occurred in the library, as one of the two chairs is overturned and bloodstained. A gold and red scarf lies on the floor, and a broken stone bookend lies in the fireplace. As Zendo approaches the scarf, it suddenly flies up from the ground and wraps around his throat. Shaken, he quickly pulls it off, and says that he had a ghostly vision of Aldern Foxglove throttling him, but in his vision, he was not himself. He felt as if he were Aldern’s wife, the ghostly woman who danced with him in the ballroom. Closer examination of the scene reveals that the bookend, an angel with butterfly wings, is broken and covered with clotted blood and hair. A book on Varisian history laid open between the two chairs, but none of the men noted what pages were open when they picked it up to examine it. The remaining books seem to be light popular works on history, art and culture.

The heroes proceed through the dining room again and enter a lounge on the opposite side of the house. The couch in the lounge is coated with wispy fungus, and eddies of dust swirl along the floorboards in front of the fireplace. As the men examine this curiousity, Hikage hears a woman’s voice whisper ‘Lorey’, into his ear. As Gellius tries to determine the source of the breeze disturbing the dust, he is momentarily overcome with the feeling that he is (as they will later determine) Kasanda Foxglove, overwhelmed with worry about the activities of her husband, Vorel Foxglove. In his delusion, the druid is momentarily convinced that Hikage is actually Lorey Foxglove, ‘her’ daughter, and needs to be removed from the house for her protection. At the moment of this delusion, the identities of these apparitions is unknown, but will soon be revealed in the portrait hall.

Exiting the haunted lounge, Hikage explores a small room which turns out to be a washroom. As he enters, the monk hears a disturbing scratching coming from within the tub, and discovers a blind, tumor-riddled rat frantically trying to climb out of the stained iron tub. Hikage puts the diseased vermin out of its misery, and the heroes, trying to determine how the rat got into the tub, notice that the ceiling is bowed and the plaster crumbling.

The heroes decide to explore the upper levels of Foxglove Manor. Making their way up the creaking staircase in the entry hall, they first find a child’s bedroom, and a few of the men can faintly hear a child sobbing. When Zendo approaches the small bed and toybox, he suddenly feels as if he has become a frightened child, hiding in the room. He sees a vision of ‘his father’, Traver Foxglove, festering with tumors and wielding a knife, struggling with his ‘mother’, Voralie Foxglove, wielding a torch. Zendo is paralyzed with the fear that whichever of his parents survives, will be coming to kill him next, but he musters his courage and shakes off the phantom.

The heroes, starting to understand more of the dark history of Foxglove manor, explore the musician’s gallery. This room also overlooks the Varisian gulf, and, like the dining room, has large stained-glass windows. These depict a pale and ghostly scorpion, a male vampire communing with bats, deathwing moths, belladonna plants, and a maiden being stealthily stalked by a large spider. Corvus realizes that all four windows have a strong association with necromantic magicks.

Wondering at what impulse drove Vorel Foxglove to install such macabre windows, the heroes are taken aback when they enter the small bedchamber next to the gallery. The entire bedroom is caked with a thick, spongy layer of dark green, blue, and black mold. Hikage swears that he could hear a fearful child ask “What’s on your face, mommy?”. The monk is concerned that the swollen mass of mold on the bed could conceal a body or some other essential clue, and asks Gellius, the resident expert on flora and fauna (and fungi) to examine it. Examining the mold, Gellius realizes that it is nothing but a bloated mass of corruption, but he feels a sudden itching and tingling. Gellius feels as if his face is erupting into a mass of tumors and boils, and narrowly manages to restrain himself from clawing frantically at his own face. The ashen-faced druid suddenly realizes that the rat downstairs was blinded through self-inflicted wounds, and not the action of the disease itself.

Quickly exiting the fungal chamber, the heroes find a second washroom on this level, the sagging floorboards the perfect counterpart to the bowed roof below. Hikage warns the others to be cautious, and gingerly steps across the threshold. No sooner than he has done so, the monk has to grab for the lintel as the sodden floor collapses and the iron tub smashes into the room below. He sheepisly clambers back out of the room.

The heroes then enter a master bedroom at the end of the hall, but this once-fine chamber has been destroyed. The furniture is smashed and torn apart, and the walls gouged by a knife or other blade. Portraits on the walls are torn to pieces, apart from one hanging backward to the northwest. When examined, it reveals a portrait of a dark-haired Varisian woman in a thoughtful pose, the same ghostly woman that Zendo danced with in the ballroom below. He feels a sudden wave of sadness, and Gellius experiences an unaccountable surge of fear. Corvus suddenly staggers and cries out. The wizard was overwhelmed with a sudden, intense hatred of women. This foreign emotion gave him an almost uncontrollable urge to strike out, so strong that he almost mistook Zendo for a woman to vent his rage upon. However, the wizard’s strong mental disciplines allowed him to fight off the sudden impulse.

Before going upstairs, the heroes explore beyond a set of double doors opening onto the enter of the second floor. In this gallery, they find many portraits covered with cobwebs. Clearing off the cobwebs, the men find portraits of the Foxglove family, each labeled with a brass plaque. The five portraits on the south wall depict Traver Floxglove, who is tall and thin, with a narrow face and a thin moustache, as well as his wife, Voralie Foxglove, and their son, Aldern Foxglove, and his sisters, Sendeli and Zeevah. To the north wall, a clearing of the cobwebs reveals Lorey and Kasanda Foxglove. The final portrait revealed is of Vorel, himself, a tall, middle-aged man with long, dark hair, a clean-shaven face, and dark blue noblemen’s clothes. As this final portrait is revealed, the temperature in the room drops preciptously, and the men’s breath fogs in the chill air.

The portraits of Kasanda and Lorey slump into tumor-ridden corpses. Traver’s portrait grows pale as a long cut opens in his throat. Cyralie blackens and chars, as her limbs and back twist as if broken. The portraits of Zeevah and Sendeli simply frost over, but remain unchanged. Aldern’s portrait deforms into a ghoul-like monster, but, most horribly, Vorel’s portrait, frame and all, erupts into a torrent of fungus and tumors, washing over the entire room. The hideous mass of diseased flesh vanishes as quickly as it appears, but Corvus complains about itchy red bumps on his skin, which no one else can see.

Shaken, the men proceed through the double doors into a bedroom which seems to be free of the mold and rot so prevalent in most of the house. Only a small stain on the wooden desk is apparent. As the men move into examine the room, Hikage and Zendo notice a silver-handled dagger appear on the desk which was certainly not present moments before. Ragnar swiftly advances on the desk and seizes the dagger, bringing it up towards his own throat. He shakes off the impulse and flings the dagger down angrily, which reveals it to be part of the wood of the desk. The Ulfen had gripped the desk so strongly he tore off a jagged splinter of wood in his hands. He explains that he suddenly felt overwhelming guilt for killing the person he loved most, and was almost driven to suicide. He seems irritated and scornful of the hauntings, and the other men busy themselves looking around the room. Zendo takes a quick glance out the window, and is startled to see hundred, if not thousands, of sickly, wet crows crowding the trees and rooftops of the Manor. Where previously there had been a few bedraggled birds cawing from the ruined servant’s quarters outside, now a dense flock of morose crows covers the grounds.

The men decide to press onwards and upwards, exploring the attic of Foxglove Manor. The first few rooms on this floor appear to be nothing more than a workroom,full of tools and supplies, and storerooms filled with dusty, long neglected furnishings. A low loft with a steeply angled room appears to be a disused servant’s chambers. Next to the loft, however, is an observatory. Once again, stained glass windows face the waters of the gulf. Depicted in the windows are Arazni, the Harlot Queen of Geb, and Socorro, the Butcher of Carrion Hill, two famous liches recognized by Corvus. A ruined telescope lies in pieces on the floor next to the desk, and a trap door in the roof is tied shut with rope. Several of the men smell burning flesh, but Gellius is overwhelmed with heat and believes that he is on fire. Seconds away from throwing himself out the window to reach the quenching rains outside (and risking a deadly fall to the rocks below), he shakes off the delusion and describes it to the others.

The curious Hikage climbs onto the desk and unties the trap door, opening it to reveal a pouring rain and the inquisitive stare of dozens of crows. The trap door is quickly tied shut again.

Next to the observatory is another cold, damp loft. Zendo moves to explore an armoire in the corner as Hikage examines a full-length mirror standing in front of the lone window. The half-elf is startled to find a pale, staring woman crouched in the armoire. Though undead, she is clearly the unnamed woman in the portrait, the same woman that he ‘danced’ with in the ballroom. The bard is unnerved, but the undead woman does not move or react to him. Hikage moves the mirror out of the way to see what is happening, and this seems to break the unliving woman out of her trance. She cries out to Aldern in anger and rage, promising him that he will be in her arms soon, then unleashes a baleful shriek of wrath and frustration. The shriek terrifies some of the men and Zendo, Corvus, and Gellius all cower in the face of her monstrous anger. Hikage steels himself and her cries seem only to anger Ragnar. The awakened dead moves to push past Hikage, but he strikes her a stern blow. Only now seeming to regard him, she seizes him with the long, sharp talons that seem to have replaced her feminine hands. Her nails plunge like daggers into his arm, digging painfully deep. Ragnar roars into the room and strikes her a powerful blow. After another strike from Hikage, the undead seems almost on the verge of collapse, but Ragnar is unable to bring his weapon to bear on her form, hemmed in by Zendo and Corvus on one side, and fearful of striking Hikage by accident. She rakes her claws across both men, cutting them deeply, before Hikage smites her, driving whatever animated her corpse from the body.

When the others have recovered, Zendo and Gellius treat Hikage and Ragnar’s wounds, and the men, in discussion, realize that this woman, probably Aldern’s wife, had risen as a revenant after being strangled by him. Her only impetus was to find and destroy the man who had killed her, though her form was animated by hatred and revenge. The men are confused as to how Aldern could have trapped a revenant in this room, though they remember that these undead are paralyzed by the sight of their own undead state.

Mystified by all the death and suffering in the Foxglove Manor, the heroes press onward to the only remaining room in the attic. This private study is lined with books, as well as many curios and trinkets. As Ragnar enters the room, he groans in disappointment and regret, then shakes his head and begins cursing angrily. He says that, at first, his mind was filled with all sorts of wonderful sights and sounds, but then he realized that all of these memories of exploration and discovery were not only not his, but imagined by Traver Foxglove. Ragnar says that Traver was consumed by disappointment and regret for not exploring the world, and felt trapped by his shrill wife. The fighter is disgusted that such a weak, cowardly man would seek to overwhelm his mind. Upon closer inspection, most of the tribal artifacts and masks appear to be well-made, but insignificant replicas, fashioned for tourists and shoppers, rather than genuine artifacts. Most of the books are popular works on Shoanti culture and history, and the maps also appear to be prepared more for visual appeal than navigational accuracy.

However, the painting on the wall is genuinely valuable. Labeled “Throwdown in Swynetown”, Corvus recognizes it as a work by Goren Andosalu, a controversial artist from Magnimar. Some of the scrolls in the scroll cases are also magical in nature. When removing the painting from the wall, Zendo discovers a loose brick behind it. Behind this brick is a small stack of platinum coins, a copper key, and two vials containing a foul-smelling residue. The men decide that it is time to explore the damp below.

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