Rise of the Runelords, Session 13: The Skinsaw Murders

Our group changed schedule this week, moving the game to Monday nights instead of Wednesday, putting me almost two weeks behind on posting APs, let alone anything else I might want to push out (and there is plenty, believe me). I plan to be caught back up this week, but who knows. Regardless, with this post, I'll only be one week behind. Progress!

Anyway...when we picked up last week, our heroes made the choice to push out of the farmlands and journey immediately to the Misgivings, where most of the notes to Vic, and even the testimony of the crazed near-ghoul, Grayst Sevilla, has led.

The travel went uncontested and easily through the farmlands east, and riding across the near stretches of the Bleaklow Moor with no harassment, the party finally made it to the spot where the Lost Coast Road meets the path to Foxglove Manor, near the covered bridge across the Foxglove River. No sooner had they passed the formal road than up from the overgrown banks of the river rose a huge mass of animate vegetation, extending clasping maws like those of a venus flytrap several yards out, immediately snatching Vic from the back of his horse and enclosing him in one "mouth" while pressing the attack with three others.

The thing's sheer size and ability to fight on multiple fronts came to bear quickly, with the carnivorous plant scooping up Natasha and clasping down on a horse next. The fight was over almost as soon as it began, however, when after a barrage of spells and attacks, the thing slunk into the river, releasing its prey as it did, leaving Vic and Natasha near collapse and death, and leaving the horse and Elspeth with severe wounds.

Walt administered aid to the wounded and the group set off again, more wary of their surroundings as they approached the sea cleft, and the precariously perched manor that came into view after another hour of travel.

The squawk of crows perched upon a boarded up well next to the husk of a building burned out long ago greeted our party, and lent a little eeriness to the approach to the main building. As they drew near, however, they noticed new doors had been set in the front and side entrances of the building, no doubt the product of the renovations Aldern had mentioned to the original three party members.

After a courteous knock, the group heard a pair of small children laughing and running toward the door, one announcing "I'll get it", but no answer came to the door. Finding it locked, and then swiftly picked, the band entered the home in the dual interest of their investigation and a tiny measure of worry for their mutual friend (not really, as Walt dislikes the man, but Vic, I think, gets on with him well).

The entrance hall to the manor is, or would be if not for all the cobwebs and dust, a grand thing, with the hunting trophies of days long past displayed for visitors; the greatest of these, a fierce-looking (despite its present condition) manticore, stuffed full-bodied and mounted on a platform in the middle of the room. Once secure in the fact that the thing was not alive, the group decided to check out the rest of the house, moving into a door on the left, despite some of them hearing sobbing apparently from an upper floor.

In the next chamber they visited, the room was barren except for a once beautiful grand piano laying in a sad, mildewed and molded state in the corner, which Rissi could not resist and tinkled a few of the keys, which sounded in perfect pitch despite the condition of the instrument. At this same moment, Walt heard Rissi's masterful Varisian song and flung himself forward, into the arms of a beautiful woman he swore was not there a moment earlier, then just as quickly snapped out of his revelry, seeing the woman scream and then watch as her face darkened and bloated as if being choked. Everyone else stood staring at the priest for a moment as he began to dance by himself and then seemingly come to his senses, noticing that Rissi's talent wasn't even Chopsticks worthy.

Further investigation led Elspeth to enter what apparently was a washroom, holding a now-empty basin from which dissonant scraping sounds issued. Approach revealed a blind rat, its eyes and the rest of its body covered from nose to tail in tumors and lesions. Deciding to leave well alone, the group pressed on, hearing more sobbing, children giggling, and footsteps in the floor above as they then explored a lounge with an odd breeze though no windows were open, and on into a dining room with interesting stained glass and then back into the entrance hall, whereupon Elspeth suddenly caught on fire, claiming the manticore had singed her with its tail alight with flame, though none of the others witnessed it despite being in the room.

A cursory check of a musty drawing room was done before moving to upward-going stairs to the next floor, their footsteps sounding an instant later than they were taken. Exiting the stairwell, Walt led the way into what appeared to be a fairly well-kept child's room, wherein Vic saw his parents fighting amongst themselves, his mother weilding a torch and his father, tumor-riddled like the rat from before, clutching a long knife, the altercation getting progressively worse, but ending before concluding in the inevitable. The rest of the group, having seen nothing, continue on down the hall. Vic feels a little lost and hurt at this point, never wishing to have seen such a sight (Wisdom damage, ouch.)

A quick glance in at the next room on the right reveals it to have been a music room of some sort, with multiple stringed instruments resting in the corner, but Walt's description to the others of his previous peril in the piano room cause the PCs to move on (I think! I don't remember anything happening in this room, though I do remember giving a description to the group. One of my players should be able to clarify if I am wrong). The next room visited, in contrast to the last two being in fairly good repair, is caked with thick, black mold all over. Vic catches himself reaching for his face to pick at the mold he feels there, but dismisses the sensation as a reaction to the filth, and the party venture further down the hall to a washroom with a sagging floor, which they decide to avoid, for safety's sake.

Safety, however, becomes a concern when a new member of the party, the Chelaxian woman, Natasha, suddenly attacks Rissi as everyone is going through what appears to be the master bedchamber, though the furniture, including bed, is smashed to pieces and all the artwork is smashed or slashed apart, save for a single painting turned to face the wall. The attack takes places as other members of the group are inspecting the turned painting, Walt realizing that it's a portrait of his dance partner in the piano room as everyone is trying to subdue Natasha, who claims not to have known what came over her and that she felt compelled. The group accept this, seeing how they've all experienced at least something weird about this place, then enter the last chamber on the floor that isn't a staircase

The next chamber, a large one opposite the hall from the music room on the floor, turns out to be a gallery, depicting various members of the Foxglove family, stretching back a few generations, and including portraits of a young Aldern and his sisters, as well as their parents and other family of indeterminate connection. As the paintings have their dust and cobwebs brushed away, however, the room erupts in activity. Sheets of mold spread from the painting of Vorel Foxglove as the others seem to all have grisly fates take over their likenesses in the frames, and then just as suddenly, the room is back to normal. The paintings displaying the gorgeous portraits of the family, and relatively untouched compared to other rooms in the house.

The party, having satisfied their curiosity of this part of the house, venture up again...seeing a figure standing at the end of a short hall as they crest the stairs, upon which I ended the session.

The noises of children laughing, sobbing, voices, footsteps, etc. are heard by the party every little bit as they explore the manor. It's no wonder, a few PCs have voiced, that Aldern has not been able to keep laborers employed to restore the mansion under these conditions. At any rate, this has been a pretty fun departure from the usual linear dungeon, and I think we're all enjoying it.

Cast of Characters
Walt Thrune, Chelaxian Human Cleric 6 (Merciful Healer) of Sarenrae - Paul
Rissi Scuttle, Ratfolk Alchemist 6 - Angela
Vic Alvaraz, Varisian Human Fighter (Mobile Fighter) 6 - David
Elspeth, Elf Wizard (Evoker) 5 - Tami
Hyrum Vassal, Chelaxian Human Tyrant (LE Antipaladin variant) 4 of Urgathoa/Monk 1 - David (secondary)
Natasha Caine, Chelaxian Human Rogue 5 - Angela (secondary)

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