After returning to town to give Hemi an update, we decide that we need to see both the Hambly farm and Foxglove manor. As it is only a couple of hours out of town, we have lunch beers before heading out. An afternoon arrival time seems just about right.
Upon reaching the farming areas, we notice that all of the surrounding farms appear to be abandoned. The rumors of the evil, animated scarecrows appear to be factual, and Beldar goes into full paranoid mode, shooting every scarecrow we see along the way. Turns out he isn’t crazy, as he does in fact hit one before just before it springs to life and tries to eat his face!
Turns out, the scarecrow is a new ghoul, likely one of the farmhands. Someone is making an undead army out of the locals, it seems. Pretty freaky, and fairly evil, but quite clever. We decide to put an end to them from range whenever possible, and continue into the maize, seeking the Hambly farm.
The farmhouse and barn come into view, and we begin our stealthy approach. Unfortunately, Cian sneaks like a drunken buffalo and the ghouls living in the barn scream out an alarm. Despite Beldar being paralyzed, we are able to destroy the disgusting creatures and search the area for stuff… er, I mean survivors, before heading over to the farmhouse. There, we encounter a few more ghouls and their ghast leader, a rank bastard with one ear missing. The missing ear may indicate that this ghast is the caretaker of the Foxglove estate, a man by the name of Rogors Craesby. Again Beldar falls to their paralyzing touch, but with our holy power we are able bring the creatures down before they make a meal of our halfling.
Inside, we find yet another carved up corpse, with another lovely note for myself. Your Lordship has been at it again, taunting us to come and seek him out. If this is Foxglove, he is not going to like it when we arrive at his manor. My patience is wearing thin…
Not wishing to leave any ghouls out and about, we spend the next couple of hours checking each and every scarecrow in the area. Along with the ghouls, which we destroy, we also find a couple of survivors – Lettie and Horran Guffman, who were dragged away last night and infected with the ghoul fever. They have a chance at survival, and we rig a couple of litters up and drag them back to Father Xantos for treatment.
After a night of celebrating our victory against the ghouls and the rescue of the Guffmans, we head back out, our goal being the Foxglove estate. The estate grounds would be beautiful, but the land is twisted and ugly, the very foliage deformed as if cursed by Gozreh himself. The manor is also in disrepair, and we proceed with caution towards the forlorn structures, a scorched outbuilding being our first destination. I remember that the servant’s quarters was burned down around 20 years ago, about the time the Aldern’s parents passed away. Finding nothing in the ruins, we head over to the main structure. I really want to try out my fancy key!
Inside, we find the first room is a trophy room, containing stuffed creatures. The whole place has a very creepy feel, and while we are investigating the mounted critters, as well as the spiral of mold on the floor, Beldar in his infinite wisdom decides to pull a bell cord in the mouth of a magic monkey head, setting off an alarm that alerts everyone in Varisia of our presence. The monkey head is pretty cool, despite its treacherous introduction, and after a vicious thumb war with Beldar, I claim the monkey head as my own.
The next room contains some beautiful stained-glass windows depicting a monster rising out of smoke pouring from a seven-sided box – a gnarled tree monster, a huge blue and gold bird monster, a winged lion-centaur-lady, and a evil blue squid critter. The box appears to be inscribed in necromantic runes, and the creatures appear to be being drawn into the box, their faces contorted in fear. I call dibs on the scary monster sucking box!
A door to the south opens to a library, where a haunted scarf attempts to strangle Beldar to death. He could get into trouble in a locked closet, I swear! Fortunately, I hit it with my magic staff and save the day, or something to that effect. During his life and death struggle, Beldar claims to have seen a vision of Aldern strangling a women with the scarf. Rumors that the manor is haunted seem to be holding true.
Through a mold-infested drawing room, we return to the entryway, where the manticore trophy we noticed earlier decides to animate, catch on fire, and try to devour our flesh! Very not cool! Beldar jumps to defend us, while we scatter from the beast’s flaming attacks. The creature sets Beldar on fire before the beast returns to its inanimate shape. I really, really, really hate haunted houses!
The norther door from the dining area leads to another sitting room, where white fungus covers the furniture and ghostly footsteps seem to appear in the dust. The name Lorey is whispered on the wind, and we send in our front-liner to investigate. Beldar seems to be unaffected, although he experiences a vision of the lady of the house wishing to escape with their daughter Lorey before her husband could take her to the basement. Bad things happen in the basement…
In an adjacent washroom, furtive scratching draws our eyes to a wash tub. A huge rat is attempting to escape its prison, and Cian quickly deals with it. Still on edge, we head west into the next room, hoping it will hold a similar, more easily survivable encounter.
A grand piano is the main feature of this next room. Beldar checks the room, while Cian attempts to play the piano a bit. Despite its decrepit state, it plays in perfect tune, sweeping poor Beldar into a swirling dance of doom! His partner, a lovely Varisian woman, appears to have been the victim of the scarf, and as the dance came to an end she rots away to nothingness. This place is creepy as all get up.
We decide to take a break from exploring, check on the pony and keg, and grab a quick drink. Of course nothing is ever that easy here, as it appears that a swarm of undead ravens have descended upon poor Trigger, and our pony is no more. We manage to save the keg (proving the gods are merciful), and channeling the might of said deities brings the raven’s threat to an end, leaving their grisly remains all over the area.
I hate this house.