Oathday, 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, night
Through the dark rainy night, the more sharp-eyed members of the party were able to make out the outlines of a barn and farmhouse. Upon approach, they saw that the barn door was open, and Charrone noticed the strong smell of rotten flesh. She rode her charger into the barn to see what was inside.
While the outside looked fine, the interior of the barn was a terrible mess: blood-soaked straw lined the floor, and blood-splattered hay bales were piled near the walls. Piles of bones littered the floor: mostly large animal bones, but several humanoid bones were also visible. Most of the bones appeared to have been gnawed on. Suddenly, from the shadows, leaped six ghouls, who clawed and bit at the paladin! One of the ghouls managed to claw Charrone through a gap in her armor. Through the pain of the wound, the paladin felt an unnatural coldness course through her body, and she found that she was completely unable to move! Fortunately, her trained heavy warhorse knew what to do when surrounded by enemies: Rear and kick! One ghoul took two hooves in the face and collapsed!
The rest of the party converged on the barn, but could not also ride in due to insufficient space. Halfred and Zandu dismounted to engage the ghouls hand-to-hand. Halfred used his ranseur to great effect to keep the ghouls at a distance. McGregor and Durrok provided ranged support of the combatants, and Declan channeled the power of the goddess Sarenrae to burn the undead creatures with the illuminating light of the sun.
As they fought the ghouls in the barn, a second group of ghouls approached from the direction of the farmhouse. This group seemed to be led by a ghoul champion: it wore a chain shirt, and wielded a battleaxe in combat in addition to its natural attacks. It chopped at Durrok, who parried with his crossbow, then dropped it and pulled out his own axe to return the favor. Halfred then wheeled and stuck it with his ranseur. McGregor conjured a bolt of fire and hurled it at the ghoul leader, but it went wide, only singeing a large patch of grass.
Charrone snapped out of her paralysis and took out more regular ghouls. Declan channeled energy again, and this time all of the normal ghouls collapsed, smoldering. Halfred then drew his falchion, stepped in, and finished the leader. McGregor cast detect magic and saw that the leader’s axe was magical. Durrok claimed it as a prize. He also wore an expensive-looking gold and jade ring, and had a large key on a leather cord around his neck. The key had a family crest etched on its head that no one could identify.
The farmhouse was empty of creatures. The front room had been completely ransacked. Nailed to the wall was yet another victim of the ritual murderer. This victim was female, but was otherwise done up as the rest: hands nailed to the wall, jaw removed, blouse cut open, and the Sihedron Rune carved into the flesh of her chest. Like the other victims, a note addressed to Charrone was pinned to the body:
Charrone Genteur, Paladin of the Inheritor:
Take the fever into you, my love! Consider it the next of my many gifts to you.
Zandu searched the room in the back of the house, which appeared to be a bedrrom. Under a loose floorboard under the bed, he found an unlocked wooden coffer containing 33 small leather bags. Each of the bags held 100 silver shillings, except for two, which each held 50 gold ducats.
Declan asked the surviving humans who lived at the house. One of them replied, “Just Mina Hambley and her husband Zak. I heard that Zak had been getting good prices for his barley up in town, but old Mina would never let him spend any of it!”
The party then built a pyre with most of the family’s firewood in the pasture behind the barn. They collected the ghoul bodies and burnt them on the pyre. They did the same with Mrs. Hambley’s body, which they tried to conceal from the other farmers.
Letting the sick farmers ride the horses, the party then returned to Sandpoint. Between Declan, Charrone, Brother Zantus, and Hannah Velerin the healer, everyone who had been infected by ghoul fever was on the road to recovery.
Of note, however, was the state of Grayst Sevilla: despite being cured of the fever, he remained out of his mind. He continued to shriek ravings like “The Skinsaw Man! He’s coming! The Skinsaw Man will carve you up! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, morning
Over breakfast the next morning, Durrok agreed to assist the party fight against whatever foul presence was causing a ghoul outbreak. Before leaving, the party checked in with Sheriff Hemlock to ask about the key they’d found. Hemlock identified the crest on the head of the key as that of the ill-fated Foxglove family.
“What do you mean, ‘ill-fated?’” asked Charrone.
“That family has had its share of misfortune over the years, but the mayor knows the story of the family better than I do. Why don’t you ask her about them.”
The mayor was in her office when the party called on her, and was shown in.
“The Foxglove family? They were a wealthy merchant family from Magnimar. About eighty years ago, one of the Foxgloves (I don’t remember his name) bought a large chunk of land on the southern shore of a mostly useless bay that’s about three miles south of here. The bay is beautiful, but is completely surrounded by rocky sea cliffs that are over 100 feet tall, which makes it quite unsuitable as a shipping harbor. Anyway, he built a nice manor house overlooking the bay, and moved his family up there from Magnimar. But some sort of tragedy befell the family, and the house was abandoned for decades. It acquired a bad reputation since then, especially among the Varisians. They say that there are strange lights in the attic windows, sounds of screaming and moaning, and some even say that’s where the Sandpoint Devil lives. The locals call the whole Foxglove property ‘Misgivings.’ Over the decades, some of the Foxgloves have tried to reclaim it, but the only one that made any progress on that front was Traver Foxglove about 20 years ago. He and his wife and three children managed to bring up a bunch of workers from Magnimar— no one from around here was willing— and did a decent job of fixing it up. I remember being brought to a party there when I was about 14, and I thought that their ballroom, although small, was very fashionable.
“But tragedy struck again. A fire broke out in the carriage house, and Traver’s wife died. The poor dear was found burned and smashed on the rocks below the cliffs— it was thought that her clothes caught fire in the carriage house, and that she jumped into the bay to put out the fire. Traver was found in their bedroom, dead by his own hand. The three children went to Korvosa to live with relatives.”
“What about Aldern Foxglove?” asked Charrone. “We met him on Goblin Day, and he told us that he and his wife had been living there and renovating the place, but that his wife was lost at sea, and he had ceased renovations for now.”
“Aldern? Yes, he was Traver’s youngest. He’d be about…25 or so now? I had heard that he was in town last year trying to hire workmen to fix up the place again, but couldn’t find anyone willing to do it.”
With that, the party thanked the mayor, and set off for Foxglove Manor.
Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, late morning
The weather that day was foul: rainy, windy, and raw. A cold sea wind blew off the Gulf of Varisia as the party followed the Lost Coast Road south. When they got to the bridge over the Foxglove River, they say a poorly-maintained road heading off to the west along the north bank of the river. After about half an hour of travel, they crossed the river over an ancient, decaying stone bridge, and heard the distant sound of surf.
The trail wound precariously close to the staggering sea cliffs of the Lost Coast, some 200 feet high. The surf could be heard pounding violently against the cliffs and the air had the heavy scent of brine and seaweed. Gusts of wind whistled longingly through the crags of the sea cliffs. The trail rose, and turned a steep corner in the cliffs. The silhouette of a manor house loomed ahead, seemingly at the edge of the world.
The place seemed to have earned its local nickname of “Misgivings,” for the house appeared to be poised for a suicide leap, perched as it was on the precarious cliff above Foxglove Bay. The roof sagged in many places, and mold and mildew caked the crumbling walls. Vines of diseased-looking wisteria strangled the building in many places, hanging over the precipitous cliff edge almost like tentacles. The house was crooked, its gables angling sharply, and the roof was breached in at least three places, haphazardly repaired by planks of sodden wood. Chimneys rose from various points among the rooftops, leaning like old men in a storm. Grinning gargoyle faces leered from under the eaves. Durrok thought it remarkable that the manor house continued to cling to the cliff, as the entire far side was little more than a sheer drop to the ocean below, a fall of about three hundred feet.
In front of the manor, the foundation stones of a long-burnt outbuilding stood sentinel astride the weed-choked approach. As the party drew nearer, they saw a handful of sickly-looking ravens fly clumsily away. There seemed to be no shelter for the horses, so they tied them up in the ruins of the outbuilding, figuring that the stones would at least give the animals some protection against the wind.
They approached the house and knocked on the front door. Hearing nothing other than the sound of wind whistling through the gables, Zandu tried the door. It was locked. He then tried the key recovered from the ghoul leader, which fit perfectly. He turned the key, and the lock opened with an audible ‘click.’ The doors swung open, and the party peered into the gloom beyond.