We moved out into the cavern. It has a vaulted ceiling about thirty feet high. There is a foaming pool of water in the center surrounded by ledge that stepped down to its edge. The step was very slimy. We could see a stone door set in the north wall. There was a tunnel to our left and Agrent, Bron, Sampson and Strabo moved in to check it out. The passage opened up after fifteen feet into a meandering cavern on the left. The smell was horrendous, which was coming from two midden heaps along the left side. The heaps consisted of body parts showing signs of having been gnawed on. Many of these parts were from humans. Strabo is breathing heavier than ever through his “mask.” Bron searched through the body parts, but did not find anything of significance. Strabo noted there were very few skulls present, but one in particular drew his attention. It was human and had been crushed on the side. There was a small stone wing next to the skull, which he determined had been used to crush the skull. The wing is from the missing bookend up in the manor house. The tunnel finally led back to the cavern with the pool between the original opening and the stone door.
Erlig saw Bron and the others enter the cavern in the distance. He waved to them indicating that we would move around the pool to meet them. We set off walking very carefully down the spiraling ledge towards the stone door. Erlig and Falathar checked the walls including the two fissures very carefully, but found no hidden doors or artifacts. Upon reaching the others Falathar pointed to the foaming tidal pool and asked Bron if he was up for a swim. “I learnt my lesson, I na be goin’ near it.” Strabo cast bit of luck on Rain. He then cast bless on the party.
Agrent examined the door and found no lock on it and no signs of a trap. Sampson wanted to lead the way in, but it was suggested that Bron go first using his dark vision. Sampson reluctantly surrendered the lead to Bron. Bron opening the door only to see a short passage, which then turned to the left. He led the party in and around the corner, which revealed a macabre scene. There was a rickety table in the middle of the chamber, which was piled with refuse. A painting was propped against it. It had an uncanny resemblance to Rain. There was a comb on the ground near it. There was a fine high backed chair covered with foul stains opposite the painting. On the far side was a small table holding silver platters, fine china, and crystal goblets along with rotting food (at least I hope it was food). An overwhelmingly horrific stench, the worst we had come across so far, emanated from a gruesome figure standing in the center of the room. It had once been Aldern Foxglove, but now was something that was most dark and foul. His skin was blotted and discolored and shoulders had heightened to points. His face and body seemed elongated. He was holding a war razor in one hand, which he kept flicking open and closed. Each time he opened the razor he would lick its bloody length with a tongue that was three to four times normal length. Next to him on the floor was a wooden puzzle box shaped like a fist, which had its top smashed open. Aldern kept pacing back and forth flicking the war razor open, close and then lick. His clothing was of fine silk and must have been handsome before being so foully soiled and stained.
Aldern turned to face us. “You – Rain you come to me. I knew you would. Let us consummate our …hunger!” Each word out of his mouth caused color to flood Rain’s face in disgust. She then saw the comb on the floor, “That’s my comb, that’s my comb! How did it get here?” The ground began to rumble and eight ghouls crawled up out of the dirt floor. Erlig alertly cast protection evil 10’ knowing what was about to happen. Rain couldn’t quite see Aldern, but did see a ghoul rise up in front of the party. She promptly put an arrow into it. Aldern leaped up on the table and slashed down at Sampson. He slipped on the rickety table and missed the paladin. The stench from Aldern was so bad Rain and Erlig began puking their guts out, which somewhat hindered their ability to function. Bron tried to leap up on the table and failed badly. Erlig managed to cast mage armor on Agrent despite vomiting. Agrent to Erlig, “I love you.” Parlay scored a critical hit with his klar dropping one of the ghouls. Agrent hit with his club and klar slicing another ghoul in two. Sampson used smite evil and a cleave attack, but missed hitting the flailing Aldern. Falathar could get a clear shot behind the party, but he was still wearing his slippers of spider climb. He then walked up the wall high enough to get a clear shot, but missed with his first arrow. Strabo crouched down next to the table and cast consecrate.
The ghouls launched a series of attacks. One managed to bite Parlay who withstood the paralysis effect. Another bit and clawed Sampson who also shrugged off the effects. Two who attacked Strabo landed one claw and one bite successfully. He too overcame the paralysis from the attacks. The last ghoul crawled under the table to attack Bron, but found our armored dwarf imperious. Cameo shot his cross bow with his usual result and missed completely. Rain fell while puking and missed hitting her target. Aldern again attacked Sampson with the war razor and tried to bite him. The razor hit, but he missed with the bite. Parlay had now joined Erlig and Rain in vomiting from the smell. Still, he was able to climb up on the table and hit Aldern with the klar. Erlig cast magic missile from the wand, not to mention projectile vomit and hit Aldern. Bron hit the ghoul standing next to him, while ignoring the one under the table. Sampson still having smite evil running hit with his cleave attacks on Aldern. Agrent hit a ghoul with his club, but missed with the klar. Falathar, now used to standing sideways on the wall put an arrow into a ghoul. Strabo’s spell went off and suddenly the area no longer detected evil to the Paladin. He could now sense evil emanating strongly from Aldern and less so from each of the ghouls. The ghouls attacked again missing across the board. The fungus form on the wall shot a spray of spores at Strabo, but they harmlessly slid off of him to the floor. The fungus no longer with the black shape was diminished. Cameo broke form and scored a hit with a bolt killing one of the ghouls.
Rain moved back still puking, but shot a ghoul dropping it. Aldern again tried to slice and bite Sampson, but found the paladin hard to hit. He really has it in for the Paladin. Parlay attacked Aldern with long sword and klar missing with both. Erlig cast another magic missile from the wand into a ghoul accompanied by another round of puking. Bron swung his war axe down and hit the ghoul under the table. Sampson scored a critical cleave attack on Aldern. If he looked bad to start with now he really looks bad. Agrent moved up landing two massive hits on a ghoul dropping it dead. Falathar walked up a couple of paces and launched an arrow into Aldern, “Consider it an engagement gift.” Strabo tossed his net at two ghouls missing them. “Ya can’t do better than that Strabo “Thong Nose,” chided Bron. Cameo missed with a bolt aimed at Aldern.
Aldern crouches down on the table, “I surrender. It was the Skinsaw Man.” His voice was now weird and wimpy sounding. “She, Xanesha – Ironbriar introduced us. He wanted to be a lich, failed with the whole place becoming a phylactery. Xanesha wanted the fungus…wait I hear him. He is coming.” Aldern voice changed. He taunted us with a steady and powerful voice quite unlike that of the quivering Aldern. He stood up and missed Sampson with the war razor. Parlay with a might swing of his long sword slashed off Aldern’s head. Erlig put another magic missile into him. Bron struck another ghoul. Agrent tried a rear attack on yet another ghoul completely missing. Sampson came round the table using a cleave attack to drop it. Falathar put an arrow into the last ghoul dropping it.
We began checking the room and found in some sticky, blood-covered papers a letter. One of the party recalls the connection to the Lord of Murder, Norgorber and the Skinsaw man Cult. We pieced together from the clues and the visions provided by the haunts of the house that the man who tried to become a lich was Aldern’s grandfather, Vorel. It was his wife who went crazy when she found out what he was trying to do. This is who Rain had experienced in the workroom. Traver, Aldern’s father, had tragically succumbed to the rot and haunts of the manor becoming deathly ill and crazy in the process. His wife Cyralie, (Aldern’s mother) became terrified when Traver went nuts and tried to burn the house down. She was murdered by her husband who then committed suicide. We identified the second portrait in the room by a well known Varisian artist as that of Iesha. We realized that Aldern had murdered her along with many others.
The letter was to Aldern about his assigned mission.
You have served us quite well. The delivery you harvested from the caverns far exceeds what I had hoped for. You may consider your debt to the Brothers paid in full. Yet I still have need of you, and when you awaken from your death, you should find your mind clear and able to understand this task more than in the state you lie in as I write this.
You shall remember the workings of the Sihedron ritual, I trust. You seemed quite lucid at the time, but if you find after your rebirth that you have forgotten, return to your townhouse in Magnimar. My agents shall contact you there soon – no need to bother the Brothers further. I will provide the list of proper victims for the Sihedron ritual in two days’ time. Commit that list to memory and then destroy it before you begin your work. The ones I have selected must be marked before they die, otherwise they do my master no good and the greed in their souls will go to waste.
If others get in your way, though, you may do with them as you please. Eat them, savage them, or turn them into pawns – it matters not to me.
– Your Mistress, Wanton of Nature’s Pagan Forms
Falathar was impressed with the amount of information we had found. Yet, he could only shake his head at what might of have been found in the manor house. If only the Shoanti didn’t kill or burn everything without a second thought. I guess you can take the Shoanti out of the forest, but you can never take the forest out of the Shoanti.
Sampson performed lay on hands on himself until he was fully healed. Agrent cast a cure light on himself and Falathar cast one on Parlay to fully heal him up. Fully prepared, we returned to the first cavern at the bottom of the circular stairwell. We then moved off into the last passage leading from it. It was a long passage, which finally widened out into a ten by thirty-five foot cavern. It then narrowed again and lead to the well. The floor was covered with desiccated bat guano. It was also littered with the carcasses of animals including a partially eaten horse, fish and humanoids including three human corpses. This must have been the giant bat’s feeding area. Falathar alertly searched the room and found that two of the three human corpses were Varisian and long dead. A third turned out to be a Varisian Scarni Thug named Shad Bilgers. Cameo recalled his nickname was Redshiv and there was a 500 GP reward posted for him in Magnimar.
We also found on or near them a Pearl Ring of 300 GP value, an adamantine long sword, a funny looking cavalier’s hat, which was magic, along with scattered gold totaling 56 pieces. We added this to the items we collected in Aldern’s room. These include a magic mask made from many pieces of skin, two magic rings (Aldern’s), the war razor and the collected silver plate, china and crystal. We moved to the well with Erlig casting spider climb and Falathar using his slippers to climb up the well. They secured and dropped ropes down to the party and helped them climb to the surface. We moved back to camp near the river. Sampson had sensed that the fungus needed to be doused with holy water or it would grow back. He only had one bottle, which was far short of that required. Strabo would rest up and create enough holy water to fulfill the task. As Strabo sat down to rest he showed us a tongue in a jar. We had noticed him cut out of Aldern’s mouth, while we had prepared to move out. Just when you think he couldn’t be stranger, he does something even more gross.
We rested up and Erlig prepared Identify. Rain had gone fishing but only managed to catch one carp. Erlig swallowed it along with a good measure of mead. It is unusual to hear someone with slurred speech be so accurate in his observations. The mask has a faint illusion spell about it. It allows the wearer to major pluses to hide and move stealthily. The wearer can take on the features of anyone within sixty feet. It gives pluses to attacks. It also detects as evil. “The longer you..”burp” wear it the more the anger and rage and jealousy builds up in the individual.” I guess that Foxglove had been wearing it a long time based on his obsession with Rain.
Agrent went off hunting and Falathar had cast cantrips to mend Strabo’s net, and mend and clean “Aldern’s silk clothing. He cast another to clean the silver plate, china and crystal. “We will cook Agrent’s game and eat a good meal on proper service tonight,” Falathar commented.
The next day Rain had more luck catching carp and Erlig swallowed these along with generous measures of mead. He was able to identify Aldern’s rings. One is a ring of protection and the other is a ring of jumping. The hat is made of felt, but is in great condition. It is a hat of disguise, which last for ten minutes. Erlig feeling the mead put on the hat and strutted around the room looking like Sampson. “I detect evil – no that just Parlay. I detect – no, that just Strabo’s smell,” he slurred.