Note: I’ve been playing a Pathfinder game for a few months and decided to start writing up the play sessions. This is my first attempt.
Putting the Dead to Rest
A weary band of adventurers rode in to the gates of Sandpoint as the lowering sun lit the sky with fire. The red light highlighted the dried blood and sunken eyes of the party. Foxglove Manor and the caverns below had presented an ordeal not only of steel and spell fire, but also of the mind. A barbarous orc, a dusty jacketed man, a druid, his bonded gorilla, and a rogue bristling with tiny hilts retreated to their lodgings at the Rusty Dragon to rest. A paladin strode off to his rooms at the Savah’s armory. Guards went to alert the sheriff that the bedraggled Heroes of Sandpoint were back, all alive, but looking worse for the wear they had endured.
The paladin arrived first in the Dragon’s dining room some time after sunset. Sherriff Hemlock was already there, anxiously waiting for the others to rise from rest or prayers. Not long after the paladin settle in to wait with Hemlock the rest of the band made their way downstairs. Food and drink were brought, and after a few silent minutes of eating and drinking, the Sherriff could no longer wait.
“The manor… is it safe? Have you brought the murders to an end?”
Oggrash looked up from his meal. He started to nod, then cocked his bald head to the side. After a moment of thought he spoke.
“Well… it would seem so. That house is full of evil. We found Aldern Foxglove, and he is no longer alive. Or dead. Or whatever he is, he won’t be moving any time soon. But this went further back than Aldern. I think the local farms should be safe from him.”
Hemlock seemed to shed a weight off his shoulders as he listened, the dense cloud of apprehension over him diminishing slightly. He gestured to a pair of watchmen who were hanging back. They shifted and prepared to leave.
Raoul, a hulking pile of muscle covered in an arming doublet and generally affable righteous zeal rose and called out to the watchmen.
“Guards, please, wait a moment! Aldern may be departed, but that house is still evil. Our greatest challenge came not from Lord Foxglove and his foul beasts, but the very magic of the house itself. Oggrash here nearly killed himself by some witchery. Tell me, do you think his sort would take a knife to his own throat?”
The guards looked from the paladin to the massive, shirtless half-orc. Oggrash was a large and brutish creature even more imposing than the paladin. He sat head, if not shoulders, above most men in the Inn’s dining room. While not entirely a stereotype of the barbaric eastern steppes, his small tusks were obvious and the necklace of trophies and scars he carried certainly silently spoke to a life of violence. Half-orcs also tended to retained the stubborn pride and rage of their cruel heritage. Theoverall impression was a man more likely to be doing the assaulting than being caught out the victim. He stared levelly at the watchmen as he drank.
“You cannot walk alone in that house,” warned the half-orc, “You need to travel in pairs or triplets and watch each other. We only made it out alive through care and a bit of luck.”
A quiet, thoughtful man in simple, well-worn leathers and traveling clothes spoke up.
“There are haunted magics in the house itself, and a foul infestation of mold in the walls and basement. This mold affects the mind. Each room in the house itself bears an enchantment or sorcery that will test your men.”
Hemlock gestured his men back.
“Thank you Garus, knowing that mold is more than an annoyance will probably save a few lives when we go to search the house.” Hemlock looked to the party, “Forgive me for asking more of you today, but could you all help us create a map of the house, and explain what happened to you? Perhaps we can clear the house and solve this whole mess.”
Garus nodded his consent. With that Hemlock called for the guards to bring parchment and quills, and as the party finished their meal a map of Foxglove Manor was created. Raoul told Hemlock of his meeting with the local priests before he had arrived at the Rusty Dragon. Between the guards, the priests, and perhaps a healthy measure of oil and fire, the land could be cleansed.
By the time the meal and map were done, Hemlock had pledged horses to the party for the upcoming trip to Magnimar the group was about to embark on. Clues in the Manor lead to another Foxglove Estate, this one a townhouse in the City of Monuments. Along with the horses, Hemlock promised to send an official account of the “Heroes of Sandpoint” to the City Watch in order to help continue the investigation into the mysterious Seven behind the goblin attacks and now apparently the madness of Aldern Foxglove.
On the Road
The trip to Magnimar was uneventful. Oggrash, Raoul and Vinder were riding together down the road along the coast. Garus and Ted had stayed behind to tend to a few things before leaving town, and would join at the Lost Coast Road Gate in Magnimar. Oggrash in particular was less taciturn than usual. His voyage from Kaer Maga in the Cinderlands to the great Arcadian Ocean to the west, started two years ago, was almost at an end.
“So what brings a big ball of rage like you all the way out here?” Raoul asked as the horses trotted along the road. Oggrash looked off to the shore for a moment.
“I’m from the east. The Cinderlands. Mother is Shoanti, my tribe’s shaman. Father, well,” Ogg jutted out his lower jaw, highlighting the protruding tusks that were his lower canines, “mother and father did last long. She won, he died in the dust. My people, they feared me well enough, but enough didn’t respect me. So I decided to leave. The ocean seemed like a nice change. We haves seas of dust and grass in the steppes, but not this.”
Ogg gestured out to the vast shore and ocean beyond the road.
“And you? You’re not from here. The accent gives you away,” Oggrash said to Raoul.
“Ah ha! No fooling you. No, I am from Cheliax!” the paladin said brightly.
“As in the Infernal Cheliax, Empire of Asmodeus, oh valorous and honorable servant of Iomedae the Just?” asked Oggrash, one eyebrow raised.
“Well, you can see why I would leave! You’re not the only one whose people don’t respect you. Mine just wanted to put me on a pyre or use me as payment for some diabolist’s contract!” exclaimed Raoul, perhaps a bit more lightheartedly than Oggrash would have expected.
“I guess that makes sense,” mused Oggrash. He turned to look back at the coast as they road.
The House of Deja-Fu
Upon arriving in Magnimar via the northern gate to the Lost Coast Road the party quickly secured lodgings in the nearest inn and bedded down to prepare searching for Foxglove’s townhome.
When day broke, Garus and Ted had still not arrived, so Vinder, Oggrash and Raoul set out to find the Foxglove Townhouse. Shortly after the party left the inn Raoul spied a city watchmen hurriedly striding down a road and accosted him.
“Sir, a moment! We are looking for a particular residence, of the Foxglove Family! Can you tell us where we might find it?”
The watchmen halted abruptly, somewhat incredulous, and seethed at Raoul, “Do I look like a tour guide? Did you notice that I am moving quickly? As in, towards something that needs a watchman. I’m here to keep this city safe, not play host to tin cans that can’t read maps! “
With that the watchman hurried down the street and around a corner.
“Hmmph, could have been a bit more polite about it,” said Raoul with mild disdain. He started out again down the street. Vinder and Ogg shared a glance and followed along. After a few blocks, Raoul located a second watchman who was not in any apparent rush to do anything. This particular watchmen was settled in at street corner, almost appearing to be rooted in place like a statue. He was rather rotund, with an almost absurd mustache and stood stock still except of a slow swivel of his head. His eye observing the carriages and passersby laconically.
“Sir!” Raoul said as he came up to the watchman, who raised an eyebrow and regarded him blankly.
“My good sir, could you possibly help us in locating a house?”
The watchmen glanced aside, confused momentarily, then back at Raoul, “Not really in m’line of work, but I might be able to help.”
“We are looking for the Foxglove Family townhome. The same Foxgloves who hold a manor up on the Lost Coast.”
“Well, let’s see. Not too sure, but if you head south, should be in the knobby neighborhood. If you get to the Drunkard’s Lament, you‘ve gone too far,” he spoke slowly. After a pause he added, “Or at least far enough for something else, I’d wager.”
“Thank you, kind sir,” Raoul said cheerfully. The trio began down the street in the direction the watchmen had indicated.
The neighborhood did noticeably shift after a few blocks, into something entirely “knobby” as the watchman had put it. Shops and walk-ups transitioned to proper townhomes with walled courtyards and tasteful stonework facades. Nothing in particular stood out. When the next block revealed a large building complete with a sign bearing a tankard and what appeared to be a signing, or possibly crying, crowd, the group turned around to look more closely at the houses they had passed.
After half a block of back-tracking, one three-story house, upon closer inspection, seemed to have had the windows boarded up from the inside. Vinder produced the pair of keys from Foxglove Manor, glanced up and down the street, saw nothing suspicious, and unlocked the door.
Beyond was a shaded, dilapidated courtyard. This might once have been a charming garden with a fountain, but neglect had left it overgrown. Vines had clogged the open space above the courtyard and the fountained had turned green with algae. The paths were still walkable, but soon would be lost to bushes and flowers gone rampant.
There were three doors besides the one to the street. One door on a room attached to the wall to the street opened into a storage room filled with nails, boards and some tools. Opposite the courtyard from the street entrance was the main double door of the townhome. To the right, a small passage along the side of the townhome led to what appeared to be a service door. None of the doors in the courtyard were locked.
Vinder investigated the front double doors, detected nothing unusual, and stepped into the house. It was dark, the boarded windows on the walls blocking almost all the light. Oggrash and Vinder could both see, but Raoul lacked the gift of darkvision. After a moment Vinder seemed to notice the paladin struggling with the darkness, his heavy armor bouncing off furniture. A quick gesture and a few muttered phrases set Raoul’s shield alight with a magical glow. Raoul glanced around.
“There is definitely something evil here. I can feel it,” the paladin told the others. He was feeling the tell-tale itch that meant something foul was near.
The first floor was appointed as befit a townhome in this posh neighborhood, but all signs pointed to a long abandoned house. Dust and disuse had left the rooms musty. As the group came to the second floor the scene repeated itself. While the trio were searching, Vinder heard what sounded like silverware and glasses clinking above. He held up a hand to wave at Ogg and Raoul when a voice floated down the stairs.
“Come on up, we know you are here. There is plenty of food!”
The three looked at each other. Ogg, then Raoul, and then Vinder walked up the stairs warily. As they turned the landing and cautiously walked up to the top of the stairs, they saw a hallway opening onto a wide room. The room took up the back half of the house, with the hallway running from the room, past the stairs, and towards the street-ward side of the house. Inside the open room was a dining table, chairs askew. At the table sat Aldern and Iesha Foxglove. In the far back corner of the room Sherriff Hemlock appeared to be bound and gagged, struggling against his bonds.
Oggrash walked into the hall and up to the point where the main dining room took over. Raoul started slowly moving to the far wall of the hallway past Oggrash, towards the far corner where Hemlock sat. Vinder remained coiled at the top of the stairs, and stealthily readied a spell. Iesha and Aldern stood, smiling. Iesha gestured expansively to the table, while Aldern beckoned the group to sit in the chairs.
As Raoul continued his slow walk around the perimeter of the hall and into the dining room Oggrash stepped closer to the table, but did not sit. He held his great sword in one hand, and regarded the two seemingly alive persons in front of him. Oggrash was fairly certain that Aldern had been slain the afternoon before in Foxglove Manor, and Iesha should be a ghost haunting Aldern’s former home. Hemlock was last seen at the Rusty Dragon less than a day ago.
While Oggrash was trying to decide just how to approach the silent Foxgloves family, Vinder heard a noise towards the street. The hallway led to a doorway, which appeared to open slightly. He released the spell he had readied, sending a magical message to his companions.
“Something is beyond the door behind you, trying to close it now.”
With another quick word and hidden gesture Vinder closed the door. There was no lock to latch, but at least they would not be caught completely off guard.
Oggrash spoke to the Foxgloves, “This… is odd. Unless I am seriously mistaken, you should be dead.”
The Foxgloves stared at Oggrash, and their expressions melted from amused invitations to snarls of rage. Hemlock burst free of his bonds and leapt towards Raoul as the paladin lunged toward the supposed sheriff. The door at the end of the hallway was thrown open and Garus swarmed forward towards Vinder. Aldern dodge around the table to flank Vinder on the other side, while Iesha moved to engage Raoul. As they moved, the creatures imitating the Foxgloves, Hemlock and Garus morphed into hairless, leathery creatures. Their faces dissolved into featureless whorls of flesh and slits where eyes and mouths would be.
The two creatures surrounding Vinder tried to strike out with swords, but missed as Vinder dodged. As he ducked the second sword swing, Vinder tapped into his inner reserves of arcane power and rent the air before him, stepping through and appearing in the far corner of the room opposite Raoul and his pair of faceless assailants. As soon as he stopped moving he targeted Aldern with a scorching ray and unleashed flames over the creature. Oggrash let loose his rage and his form began to blur as he slashed at the singed Aldern. Raoul and the two aberrations he was engaged with began trading blows. Raoul’s sword struck true, but the creatures were unable to penetrate his armor.
The Aldern-thing and Garus-thing refocused on Oggrash. They landed blows, but the raging half-orc seemed immune to the blows from their swords and continued hacking with his greatsword. Under Vinder’s magical onslaught of fire the Aldern-thing fell to the ground, burned and twitching. Oggrash cleaved the Garus-thing through the shoulder and across the chest. It too fell to the ground, blood soaking into the floor. Raoul dispatched the Hemlock creature, but before he could turn to Iesha’s gruesome double the leathery beast fled to the stairs in an attempt to escape.
Oggrash lunged and vaulted over the banister down the stairs, blocking the creature, but failed to connect with his blade in the tight space. The monster responded by grabbing Oggrash, bear hugging the half-orc, then slamming him to the stairs. As it lay atop Oggrash a slit in the creature’s face split open and a tongue like tentacle lashed out. The tentacle buried itself in the flesh of Ogg’s shoulder, sucking at his blood and sapping some of his resilience.
Vinder quickly summoned a splash of grease, coating Ogg and causing the creature’s grip to falter. Ogg seized the opportunity, ripping the tongue from his shoulder and pinning the creature to the stairs. Vinder and Raoul joined in, with Vinder pulling rope from his pack. Raoul and Vinder managed to bind the creature while Oggrash struggled to keep it pinned down.
After the fight Oggrash dragged the snarling creature up to the landing while Vinder and Raoul investigated the rest of the top floor. To the right side of the hall was a bathroom with an ornate iron tub. To the left was a study, followed by a large bedroom. The three rejoined in the hallway where Ogg was finishing off a curing potion to restore some of the damage he had suffered. Raoul laid a hand on the fatigued bloodrager and Oggrash felt his fatigue lift. He nodded thanks to the paladin.
“Study and bedroom, bathroom,” noted Vinder, pointing out each room.
“I think we need to get some information from this beast,” said Raoul while glancing disgustedly at the writhing creature.
“You said there is a bathtub?” asked Ogg. He lifted the creature and walked down the hall. Vinder pointed to the door on the right. Ogg carried the beast inside and threw it down into the tub.
“Who sent you?” Oggrash asked the creature, glowering into the tub with his sword poised as If to strike.
The faceless monstrosity snarled in a strange tongue and thrashed angrily. Raoul punched the beast in the head. It spat out another unintelligible phrase and seemed to grin from the largest slit on its’ face. Vinder cast another spell, and the snarls formed oddly coherent words.
“It’s not worth telling you anything!” grunted the beast, “You are all dead anyway you stupid fools. Nothing I say will change that.”
“This is getting us nowhere,” Ogg grunted. He pulled the creature up by its’ bonds, grabbed the creature’s warped hand and roughly pulled a finger across the edge of the tub. Ogg brought the edge of his sword down across the finger, severing the digit cleanly. The creature howled in rage and pain as Ogg released it back into the deep tub, and spat another insult at the half-orc.
“Ha! You think that matters?! She would do far worse!”
Vinder sighed impatiently and made another gesture while muttering some arcane words. The scent of hot iron and burning flesh began to fill the room, along with the sound of pinging metal. The beast in the tub began to squirm.
“You can die how you choose. Anything to tell us now?” Vinder asked impassively.
“You’ll all die before her children! There is nothing to stop her!” screeched the creature as it struggled in the tub.
Vinder gestured again and the sounds and smells grew thick in the room. The creature was surrounded by a haze of heat coming off the tub. It started screeching as the heat started to burn leathery flesh. Oggrash brought the hilt of his sword down hard on the creature’s head, silencing it. He walked out of the room and the rest followed.
Oggrash and Raoul began moving the bodies to the side of the hall while Vinder looked around. Behind the table strewn with plates and wine glasses was a fireplace and upon it were two ornate lion head statues in brass. Vinder ran his hands around the statues looking for traps or magic, but none appeared present. Inside the mouth of one lion he noticed a keyhole. He drew out the second, ornate key from the Manor. The top of the key was an ornate lion’s head. He inserted the key and turned. The lock opened with a click, and revealed lined compartment containing a flat wooden box and a hefty pouch that jingled when he lifted it. Vinder smiled appreciatively, then placed the box and purse on the table.
Raoul and Oggrash joined Vinder at the table. Vinder poured out the purse. A quick count showed some two hundred pieces of platinum. With a low whistle and a glance around the table, he put the coins back in the purse. Oggrash picked up one of the wine glasses, raised it in salute, and emptied the glass. Vinder continued to the wooden box. Once opened the box revealed a ledger book and a stack of papers. Vinder rifled through the papers.
“Just legal documents and the like, nothing interesting,” he said. There was a burst of sound and a shriek from the bathroom, then silence. The group looked up from the table to watch for a moment. The hall remained empty, and no further sounds emanated from the room. They turned back to the table and the ledger book. Vinder starting flipping through pages, quickly scanning the entries. On the last few pages he slowed down.
“Well. Interesting. Looks like Aldern was paying someone called “B.7” two hundred gold a week for “Iesha’s Trip to Absalom”. He was dropping payment Oathday at midnight at a place called the “Seven’s Sawmill”. Pretty sure Iesha is deader than those things,” Vinder said, waving vaguely to the dead creatures in the hall as he read.
“More clues,” grunted Ogg as he got up and walked to look into the bathroom, “Dead,” he said after looking through the door.
“Nice to have the oppressive burn of evil out of my head. Well, let’s get this place cleaned up so we have a place to stay!” beamed Raoul.
Oggrash and Vinder stared at the paladin, disbelieving what they heard. The house was still dimly lit. The scent of blood was heavy in the air. Light coming off Raoul’s shield was casting ghastly shadows across the charred corpses and blood in the formerly tasteful third floor of the house. Bloody footprints covered the floor from the stairs, across the dining room and hallway and into the bathroom.
“You want to stay here? Where these creatures knew we were coming, set a trap, and tried to kill us?” asked Oggrash in a deadpan voice.
“Sure. At least here we know they are coming for us,” said Raoul, full of confidence.
“I think that is a horrible idea,” said Vinder flatly, “The rest of the group have no idea where we are, and whoever these things are working for could come and kill us off in our sleep. No one would even know. I’m going back to the Inn. Ogg needs rest from that… sucking. And I need to gather my energies for whatever is coming next. And we need to share this ledger with Garus and Ted, and figure out what to do next.”
“Well, fine. Shame though. This could be a real nice house with a little clean-up and after we take those boards off the windows…”