A local healer was able to cure Seoni of any ill that she may have extracted from the Witness’ bite. While we did manage to get some information from him, it wasn’t really anything that led us anywhere. Struggling for ideas, we tried searching up and downstream of the river to see if we could find any clues as to where the undead murderers were coming from, but with the water and all that was a bust. We also checked the town graveyard for disturbances, but again, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Although, I thought it was an odd coincidence that the river ran next to the graveyard. Still no solid tracks though.
Feeling a little dejected at virtually no solid leads being found anywhere, we went to visit the sheriff to see if anything else had been reported. When we got there, a local priest was visiting as well as the town Mayor, Deverin. We had asked to watch for reports of anyone getting mysteriously sick lately, and those reports came in. Some information had traveled up north from the southern farms about people getting sick down on the farms, so we borrowed some horses from our favorite innkeeper, and head that way.
One by one, we painstakingly went to each farm along the road inspecting crops and asking questions; and eventually we hit on something. We were told by one farmer that they had heard of people being sick on the Grump farm, which wasn’t too far away from this one. Finally getting somewhere, we traveled until we saw a sign for the Grump farm. Corn fields surrounded the Grump property, and we could see scarecrows scattered throughout. Just for fun, I tossed my little magic dagger at one and after it thunked into its head, it just returned to me. Proceeding on the path, we noticed more scarecrows, and then heard some movement from in the cornfields. The big guy called out to see who was there, and a man, raving about something attacking this farm and the one next to it, came bursting out of the corn. I believe it is also important to add that he reeked of a brewery. After screaming incoherently about “living scarecrows that eat people” he ran back into the corn fields. We just looked after him shocked, until we heard him scream. The mage’s bird went up to guide us as we made our way through the corn after him. Eventually we found him, and what looked like one of the scarecrows standing over his body clawing at him, his guts all over the place. It did not take us long to avenge the fallen farmer, and inspection of the scarecrow led us to find that it was actually a gagged person dressed up as a scarecrow. I looked for a carved sihedron on the scarecrow, but I found nothing other than bite/claw marks.
Leaving the bodies as future fertilizer, we went back out to the road and pressed on. At a crossway, we saw three more scarecrows pitched up in the fields. Just to be sure, we fired at all three. Two dropped down with a grunt, and the third made a muffled scream and slumped forward. Another short battle and we were cleared to inspect the body that never made it off the pole. From the looks of it, it was another farmer who was bitten, dressed up and then placed on the scarecrow poles to wait for her to change. The one here hadn’t changed yet, but it was inevitable, and we actually put the person out of their misery.
One more mercy killing and a little bit of travel and we finally came upon the farms buildings proper. There was a house and a barn here. We went to the house first. Upon first glance, it was easy to tell that something was wrong here. The door was slightly ajar and as we approached it, the smell of death and decay oozed out of the opening to drench our nostrils with its’ stank. Thankfully, it wasn’t so much to cause nausea in any of us. Once inside we were again met with a sight much like that of the cabin from the first murders, and the saw mill. Blood spatter was everywhere, causing the floor and walls, and even some of the ceiling to shine with a red-brown tinge. Stairs leading up were off to our left, and after searching the main room we moved through the door across from the front door, which led into the kitchen. The kitchen contained more mess, and this time the body to go with it. As with the other murder victims, it had its bottom jaw ripped off, was gutted and had the sihedron mark roughly carved into its chest. There was a key in one of its pockets, which we took just in case we needed it to get through any possible locked doors. Future planning you know. There was also another note addressed to Seoni pinned to the body. I was never able to get what it said, as after it was initially read we heard a shuffling noise coming from upstairs. The big guy and Seoni ran out to investigate and I followed, but was less rushed. I saw the big guy engage with something, and Seoni took two shots with her bow then proceeded to start throwing up violently. I ran over to help, and it wasn’t long before more scarecrows began to pour in through the front door. I managed to take a few swipes at them before some sort of horribleness, the same that must have been affecting Seoni, came over me. I dropped my weapons and started emptying my stomach.
It was at this point that the mage truly proved his usefulness. Through use of his arcane talents he was able to keep the scarecrows from coming all the way into the house, which allowed the big guy to dispatch the creature that came down the stairs, and for enough time to pass for Seoni to overcome her violent puking fit. She then proceeded to pepper the scarecrows trapped in the doorway with arrows. It wasn’t for some time later that I was able to get over my sickness and be functional again. I really need to start walking around with a face mask.
Once all the unpleasantness settled down, some searching resulted in us locating a key made in the shape of a flower with thorns surrounding it: the symbol was the heraldry of the Foxgloves. Remember him? He was the merchant we rode along with on the way to Thistle-whatever that really had a thing for Seoni. Supposedly, he is in Magnimar though. Some additional digging also found a loose floorboard with a coffer contained in it. The key we found on the body in the kitchen worked in its lock, and it contained a lot of pouches of silver. The Grumps wouldn’t be in need of this any time soon, so we will put it to some good use, I am sure.
We then moved outside to go check out the barn. Once again, the door was cracked open, and we were able to hear movement inside. The big guy and I stood in front of the barn doors and pulled them both open at the same time. Inside, there were four more of the scarecrows which all immediately turned their attentions on us. With considerably less puking going on, we were able to defeat these with little to no effort. Once they fell, I noticed that the gnome was not with us, and that there were noises coming from the side of the barn. Running over, I found the gnome engaged with yet two more of the undead. The remainder of the group soon followed, and these scarecrows joined the others in permanent (hopefully) death.
While it is not really relevant to the story, I feel it is important to point out that in the center of the barn, acting as a support pole, was the very large head of a statue. We were completely baffled by its presence, and were unable to locate anything that would suggest why it was there. We did a small amount of digging around it, and the best we could tell is that the head is simply part of a larger statue buried underground.
Now here is the part of tale that gets fun. You may be thinking, “But wait, wasn’t ghouls dressed as scarecrows already more fun than you can handle?” No. No my friends, it was not. It could not even hold a candle to the situation we later ended up in.
The Foxglove key was a piece of information we could not ignore. While it was not “damning”, it was certainly not something that we could just not look into. So the next day we packed up and headed towards the Foxglove estates, which were located a few miles south of town. The mansion located on the cliffs overlooked the Varisian Lost Coast. Along the pathway leading to the mansion there was a long since burned down structure. Local lore tells that it was caused by a fire about 30 years ago which involved Foxglove’s father in some way. Continuing along the path, we approached the mansion itself. I am glad that we decided to venture out here during the day, because this place unsettled me more than anywhere we have been yet has; including the asylum where the witness was held. I swear the closer we came to it, the darker the sky became. Clouds that weren’t there when we entered the property hung overhead, darkening the sky, and what little light there was cast eerie shadows on the exterior of the house. An unkindness of sickly looking ravens flew away from their perch on the porch as we stepped on, just as the stairs moaned of years of neglect with each step.
The door was closed, and there were no windows on the porch we stood on. Knocking resulted in no response, which was unsurprising. We opened the doors and stepped inside. Windows to our left and right let in enough light to make out a number of macabre trophies which decorated the room. Bears, deer, jungle cats, and other animal heads lined the walls. Dust covered everything in view, and large cobwebs hung in all the corners and from any other place a spider could hang its web. The place smelled of old age, decay, dust, and neglect. The room’s centerpiece was the most interesting piece however. Dominating the center of the room was the stuffed remembrance of a manticore. Never did I think that I would ever see such a beast in such a display. Whichever Foxglove was responsible for this must have been a mighty fine hunter indeed.
As we stood there in awe of the trophies in the room, the mage shouted a warning, causing us all to hurry back out of the mansion. None of us knew exactly what was going on, and when we questioned him about the alarm, he said that there was smoke rising from the manticore. Peering back into the house, not one of us saw any smoke. Deciding that it was just a trick of the light, we walked back in. Seoni started exploring the room while we investigated near the doorway. Suddenly, the mage screamed bloody murder and ran from the room back onto the porch. Going after him, I almost can’t explain what we saw. Well, I certainly cannot explain how it happened… he was covered in burns, and some of his clothes were scorched. No one ever saw any flames leap at him yet there he was, obviously and most definitely burned. It took us a few minutes to calm him from hysterics. Even after he calmed, we were not able to get him back in through that door. He was now afraid of the statue, as he claimed that it breathed fire on the group of us in front of the door, but burned only him. Trying to coax him inside, we dismantled the manticore statue, ruining an excellent taxidermy job. He still would not leave the porch.
Not wanting to waste time, we pressed on, going through one room after another. Seoni went alone into one room and came out looking a little off center, but when questioned she stated confidently that she was all right. It was obvious that this place has not really been lived in for a long time, although there were footprints scattered here and there on the floor. Dust, dirt, and disrepair were evidence enough that the place has seen little to no cleaning within probably at least the last year. We found one room with a large piano and a dance floor in it. There was a door leading outside in that room as well, so we were able to get the mage into the mansion again by going through this door. Unfortunately, we had to close any doors that led to the main entrance hall so that the mage could not see into it. Otherwise he would freeze where he stood.
As we travelled through a room with some covered furniture in it, I heard a ghostly voice whisper “Lorey”. I pushed everyone to move on quickly, although I made no mention of the sound, and it did not look like anyone else had heard it. We crossed another room which looked like a grand dining hall with a large table and chair setup in the middle. Huge stained-glass windows cast colored light throughout the room, making colored shadows dance in the corners. There was a door across that room that led to a library. Unlike most of the other rooms we had been in so far, this one contained evidence of people other than footprints. A bookend with what appeared to be blood on it lay on the floor next to some blood spatter. The big guy got this weird look on his face, and then suddenly a scarf that was on the floor flew into the air and wrapped itself around his neck. It appeared to be choking him, but we were so stunned we couldn’t move. I swear that at one point I heard him whisper in a weirdly feminine voice, “Aldern, no!” But it may have just been my imagination.
As suddenly as it began, it stopped. The scarf fell to the floor and the big guy struggled to catch his breath. When asked what happened he said that he saw Aldern, and it appeared as if it was him that was choking him with the scarf. That was the closest I had ever seen the big guy to being shaken. I’m actually quite surprised that he didn’t rip up the scarf out of simple principal. At this point we had pretty much searched the entirety of this level. We did find stairs leading both up and down, and we figure it is time to check out the upstairs.
But first, we need to talk the mage into actually stepping foot back inside the house. He ran back outside blathering about something again…