Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, mid-afternoon
After the extremely disturbing encounter in the portrait gallery, the party moved to a lavishly-decorated bedroom. Unlike many of the other rooms in the house, this bedroom was not damp or moldy, although it was dusty after months of disuse. As soon as McGregor entered the room, he felt an uncontrollable urge to walk over to the desk next to a window. At the desk, he was overcome by feelings of despair and remorse, convinced that he had just murdered the woman he loved more than anything else in the world. He reached into the top drawer of the desk and drew out a polished silver dagger that he knew was in there, and raised it to his own throat. However, he managed to snap out of it before he actually tried to harm himself. The dagger itself was made of alchemical silver and was enchanted; Charrone did not sense any evil aura on it other than the background level of evil that suffused the entire building.
Heading out back into the second-floor hallway, the party entered another bedroom. This one was very different from the last: everything in this room had been hacked to pieces with an axe or knife and was completely destroyed: bedframe and mattress, dresser, desk, and artwork that had hung on the walls. Gashes were hacked into the plaster walls and wooden floors. The only intact item in the room was a painting that was hung backwards, such that the backing of the frame faced the room. Charrone thought that looked suspicious, and attempted to sense evil— and this time, she felt something: an aura of moderate evil that seemed to be located where the painting was. Bracing for the worst, Zandu turned over the portrait.
The portrait was of a beautiful young raven-haired Varisian woman wearing a fashionable yellow dress, standing under an apple tree in bloom. The brass plate on the frame read, “Iesha (Zeldoni) Foxglove, 4711.” When the painting was flipped over, three characters felt a strange feeling: Charrone felt a sudden sense of sadness and loss; Durrok felt a sudden sense of fear; and Zandu’s mind began to be filled with memories and passions that were not his own. Zandu suddenly felt that he was being nagged and nagged and nagged by his shrill harpy of a wife: a woman that he had once loved, but for whom he now felt nothing by hateful comtempt— for he knew that she was now the only thing that stood between him and his glorious plans— and she was standing right in front of him! He drew his kukris and attacked.
From Charrone’s perspective, Zandu suddenly pulled a knife and attacked her without warning! His attack was deflected by Charrone’s golden armor, but he pressed forward. Charrone drew her sword and cried, “Zandu! What’s the meaning of this?” Zandu replied, “No more of your tricks, Kasanda! You’ve crossed me for the last time! Remember when I said we’d be together until death? Well, my wife, it’s time to die!” Charrone summoned the power of Iomedae into her sword, asking for the Blessing of the Merciful: that way, she could defend herself against her friend’s attack without the risk of killing him. Durrok, Halfred, and Declan joined the fight, and together they managed to subdue Zandu before he could do any serious damage. They retired to the music room to recover.
Zandu regained consciousness a few moments later. He explained that he remembered everything, and that he had been compelled to kill the woman he had seen in Charrone’s stead: his wife Kasanda Foxglove. He assured everyone that he was back to his own self again. Charrone did not detect any evil in Zandu’s aura, so Declan healed his damage and untied him.
They found the door to the third floor, which was locked. Zandu was able to pick the lock quickly, and they went upstairs. Most of the rooms on the third floor were either empty or used for storage of old odds and ends, and didn’t contain anything of interest.
The party then opened a door to a room that was located directly above the music gallery. Like the gallery and dining room below it, this was a large room with impressive stained glass windows that faced east. One window depicted a beautiful green-haired woman carrying a golden staff. Her head was thrown back, and she had an expression of agony on her face, as a green ray struck her chest. The ray came from a skeletal hand that entered from the side of the window panel. Charrone identified the woman as Arazni, the Herald of Aroden, who had been slain 700 years ago by the lich-king Tar-Baphon; her body was stolen and re-animated as a lich in the undead land of Geb, where she rules today as the Harlot Queen. [“The newly-ascended goddess Iomedae then took what had been Arazni’s job as Herald of Aroden,” concluded the paladin.]
The second stained glass window’s lower panel was missing, and sheets of canvas had been placed over the hole. The upper panel depicted a a regal but stern-looking man wearing a crown and holding a sceptre of gold and jade. McGregor identified him as Socorro, the Butcher of Carrion Hill, an ethnic Varisian necromancer who slew thousands in the distant land of Ustalav, in his quest to become a lich. “Hmmm…” said Halfred, “I may be a simple warrior, but I’m sensing a pattern in these windows…”
After a moment, Declan (and only Declan) smelled something burning. Looking around, he quickly determined what was on fire: himself! Immediately, the searing pain of the fire caused him to make a desperate decision: the quickest way to put out the flames would be to jump out the window, into the ocean below. Before anyone could stop him, he flung himself through the window depicting Arazni. As soon as he was through the window, the phantom flames were gone, apparently only existing in his mind. He slid down the steeply-pitched slate roof toward the cliff, which was almost 200 feet above the churning surf below! McGregor then cast a spell, engulfing Declan in a mass of sticky spider webs, which stopped his fall. They then used ropes to pull him back into the house.
Also in the room was a leather chair next to a smashed brass telescope and ruined tripod. Rainwater dripped through a badly-sealed trapdoor in the ceiling, that was tied in place with lengths of rope. Also visible were the ruined cogs and pulleys that appeared to once open and close the trap door. Durrok decided to open the door and take a look at the roof, balancing a wooden chair on a table to reach it. It was still raining heavily, but he could see well enough to note that in the ruins of the outbuilding, now thousands upon thousands of ravens roosted; two of the party’s horses lay dead among the stones, and the other four horses were missing. All of the birds turned to look at Durrok as one.
When Durrok climbed back inside, they party heard a woman’s shriek of anguish. Returning to the hallway, they heard the sound of sobbing from behind the next door, which was also locked. Knocking on the door gave no answer, so Zandu picked that lock too, and threw open the door. Inside was another room used for storage of odds and ends. Sitting before a large mirror, sobbing uncontrollably, was the twisted animated corpse of a woman. She wore a bloodstained yellow dress, and her raven hair was streaked with dust and cobwebs. Charrone attempted to engage her in conversation, but she completely ignored the party as she continued to stare at herself in the mirror.
Zandu noted that she might be the same person that was depicted in the portrait in the ruined bedroom. Charrone sensed for evil, and realized that the woman radiated a moderate evil aura, which was not surprising, as she was obviously some sort of undead creature. McGregor suggested that he could create an illusion in the mirror of her reflection as she appeared in the portrait, and the party agreed. Unfortunately, the illusion did not have the desired effect: As soon as she saw the illusion of what she’d looked like in life, she let out a terrifying shriek, stood, and then punched the mirror, shattering it. She shouted, “Aldern! Enough of your tricks! I can smell you— I know you’re near! Remember our last embrace? Time to return the favor!” She turned to the door, which was blocked by Charrone. “Get out of my way!” she shouted at the paladin, and slashed at her with razor-sharp claws. The claws bit through her armor, drawing blood. Charrone drew her sword, and called the power of the Inheritor to smite the creature. Halfred joined the fight, and Durrok fired his crosbow into the melee as well. The creature fought hard, but the three warriors destroyed it.
They group then found an upstairs study, filled with books on travel and geography. Unlike most of the other rooms, this one was dry and relatively mold-free. As the party searched through the study, McGregor had a sudden revelation: Visions of exotic locations, fantastic discoveries, and great deeds filled his mind— quickly followed by the realization that none of these glories had come to past, nor would they ever because he had chosen to settle down with a family rather than reach the heights of glory that he could have seen. The memories faded, but the sense of despair remained. The party found several valuables in the room, mostly trinkets from foreign lands.
Realizing that they had explored all of the upper floors of Foxglove Manor, the group decided to search the cellar. The stairs down led into a kitchen, which reeked of rats and was covered in rat droppings. As the party searched the room, a huge swarm of rats issued out of cracks in the walls, swarming over the adventurers. Weapons proved mostly ineffective (aside from Halfred’s earthbreaker hammer), but the rats scurried away from alchemist’s fire.
The party then searched the wine cellar, and Durrok found a secret stash containing eight bottles of rare wine.
The party also found a curious iron door, that was locked with a very high-quality lock. It took two tries, but it proved no match for Zandu’s skills. That led to a laboratory, apparently under the dining room, as the eastern wall held two stained glass windows. These windows were both of Vorel Foxglove: In the first, he is shown drinking a steaming green potion; in the second, his arms are raised in triumph as his smoking flesh rots away, the smoke billowing into a seven-sided puzzle-box. Also in the room were half-decayed books on a workbench, and three new-looking brass birdcages. In each of the cages was a dead diseased rat. The cages each had a name plate on the bottom: “Pug’s Contraptions — Magnimar.” Halfred had heard of this shop, and knew where it was.
McGregor examined the books. All but one fell apart in his hands as he tried to read them, but all were either histories of famous necromancers and liches, or about necromancy and the process of becoming a lich. One book was still mostly intact, and seemed somewhat valuable.
There was also a second door in the room.
[To Be Continued…]