Scenario Level: 2
Scenario Length: 1 Session (or so I had thought)
The Players (or as I like to call them, The Min Maxers):
Peter – Falcor Rayaes, Dwarf Fighter (Certified Polish mine sweeper)
Erv – Tara, Half Elf Monk (Nananananana – Bionic senses sound effect)
Craig – Morvahna, Human Summoner (NA – Necrophiliacs Anonymous)
Dresch – Morvahna’s Wood wraith Eidolon (Groot!)
While at the Rusty Dragon taking in a show by that world-renown bard, Kasa “Whisper” Lemalie, the party is offered a job by Sheriff Hemlock to investigate a theft at one of the local farmsteads. They readily agree and settle in to listen to Kasa’s tale:
The Tale of the Misgivings
Built nearly 80 years ago by a Magnimar merchant named Vorel, Foxglove Manor perched elegantly atop the seaside cliffs of the Lost Coast. However, unbeknownst even to his family, Vorel Foxglove was actually a necromancer with a sinister plan to become a lich. For 20 years he experimented in secret, yet on the eve of his transformation, his wife uncovered his vile plot. She destroyed his phylactery and triggered a necromantic backlash that destroyed Vorel’s body in one horrendous blast of disease and decay. She attempted to flee the manor with their child, but the half-completed transformation had an unforeseen development. The manor itself became Vorel’s phylactery, replacing the one his wife had ruined. It was only a matter of minutes before she, the child, and all of the servants succumbed to a deadly and horrific affliction spread by Vorel’s vengeful spirit.
Foxglove Manor was shunned for nearly 40 years before Traver Foxglove decided to move his wife, daughters, and young son Aldern, into the manor to reclaim his family heritage. Yet Vorel Foxglove remained. His spirit had hibernated while the manor lay vacant, but this new presence triggered a reawakening. Over time, Vorel’s diseased essence invaded Traver’s mind. His wife realized something was amiss and became convinced, correctly so, that the manor itself was the source of her husband’s affliction. Desperate, she burned the servants’ outbuilding and intended to do the same to the manor, but Traver, now fully in Vorel’s embrace, murdered her before she succeeded. The shock of killing his wife freed Traver from Vorel’s influence long enough for him to kill himself in despair. The Foxglove children, later found terrified on the upper floor, were sent off to distant family and the manor sealed up once again.
Fifteen years passed before Aldern, now a grown man and a successful merchant himself, returned to rebuild the family home. By now, Foxglove Manor’s reputation had taken root in local superstition, referred to as “The Misgivings” in quiet whispers. Yet he was able to find skilled laborers to aid him in the restoration. As the work progressed, Aldern met, fell in love with, and married a beautiful Varisian girl. However, the vile spirit of Vorel exerted its influence yet again. Aldern’s passion for his young wife gave way to paranoia, and one night in a fit of jealous rage, he strangled his wife and locked her sheet-wrapped corpse away in the attic. There, she rose as an undead revenant seeking vengeance on her murderous husband. Avoiding the upper floors and the sounds of his dead wife’s howling, Aldern retreated to the basement where he discovered Vorel’s long-hidden laboratory. In these caverns, the source of the manor’s affliction was finally revealed: a disturbing patch of dark fungus that was the core of Vorel’s undead spirit. However, in uncovering this secret, he unknowingly exposed himself to necromantic contagion that transformed him into an undead abomination.
Aldern, now a flesh-craving ghoul, terrorized the farms in the Sandpoint Hinterlands and the people of Sandpoint proper by committing a number of grisly and gruesome murders and afflicting several innocents with his ghoulish curse. It took the timely and heroic intervention of the Legendary Five, led by yours truly, to track this vile creature back to its lair. There, with flame, sword, and arrow, put it, the other undead infecting the manor, and the vile corruption within the manor itself, to rest for good. The ruined remains of the Misgivings still sits atop the desolate crags of the Lost Coast, inviting any who dare to delve its dark depths to discover if the haunting spirit of Vorel Foxglove is finally and completely vanquished.
Nearly overcome with emotion, not just in the tale, but in it’s telling, the party calls it a night. As they enter the stables the next morning, they find Sir Didymus Rumblebottom III, a halfling cavalier, preparing to set out on his wolf steed, Ambrosius. Sir Didymus informs the party that he has heard rumors of a red dragon sighting in the area, and he intends to hunt it down (after all that’s what knights do.) When the party expresses their doubts that a halfling can tangle with a red dragon, he reminds them not to judge someone by appearances alone (DING, DING, DING, PLOT POINT!) For whatever reason, Morvahna lies to the little knight, telling him the dragon sighting is to the south. However, this only confirms the rumor for Sir Didymus as south is where the dragon was suppose to have been sighted in the first place. Wishing them luck, he sets out on his quest while the party departs south for the Sandpoint Hinterlands.
They arrive at Farmer McDowell’s house (if you don’t get the Farmer McDowell reference, watch Coming to America.) McDowell is a loud, cantankerous cuss who barely cooperates with the party’s inquiries. To exasperate the situation, Tara decides to match cantankerousness with orneriness. Needless to say, not much is gleaned from the farmer. However, they do find some interesting evidence from the farm itself. About a week prior, thieves dug a tunnel into the cellar, helped themselves to a fair store of food goods, and made good their escape without notice. Farmer McDowell is convinced it’s varmints, but Falcor determines tools were used to knock a hole in the cellar wall; not your typical varmint modus operandi. After some rather pitiful attempts at tracking, the farmer informs them that his was not the only farm to get ‘hit’. Farmer Pilkington has had his barn rifled through a number of times in the past week. He also recommends they pay the Widow Hound a visit as she has been acting peculiar of late. With fresh evidence to pursue, the party sets off.
They come to the homely little cottage of the Widow Hound, a kindly, grandmotherly sort who, with gentle words and the smell of baking pie wafting through her humble abode, invites them in for pastries and lemonade as a short respite from the harsh road. So of course the party is immediately on alert by this obviously malicious hag! Tara and Morvahna start in with the ‘bad cop’ interrogation tactics only to be brought up short when the widow calls into question their upbringing and lack of manners. However, their suspicions seem to have merit when the widow balks at having any knowledge of the strange tracks they found leading to and from her front porch, tracks unlike any they’ve encountered. Morvahna makes the intuitive leap that they were probably made by a goblin on stilts (close; not bad for an empty headed bimbo.) The widow decries any knowledge, but the party sees through her obvious lie. Furthermore, when Tara searches through the cottage (nananananana – bionic eye sound effect) she finds evidence that the widow is preparing a hasty departure. However, unable to strong-arm the helpless old lady into incriminating herself, the party decides that, with what daylight is left, they will check out the Pilkington farm then return at nightfall to stake out this den of villainy.
They approach the Pilkington (for the Pilkington reference, read Animal Farm) farmstead to find the place eerily abandoned, or so it seems. They investigate the barn where Tara and Falcor manage to set off a number of wolf traps set for some would be intruders (Lo, for want of a trap monkey!) Here they find another hole dug under the wall and the place ransacked. They approach the front door of the farmhouse where, perhaps feeling left out; Morvahna sticks her leg into a punji stake trap (guy’s, I’m implying you need a rogue.) Tara and Falcor, not falling for the banana in the tail pipe, try sneaking in through the house’s windows when Falcor gets a face full of swinging spiked ball trap (… maybe I’m not making myself clear.) Farmer Pilkington, mistaking the party for whoever or whatever has been invading his farm, starts yelling hysterically from inside the house; something about they’re not going to get him, stolen tools, siege engines, and squirrels trying to eat him. The party tries to convince him of who they are to no avail, so they force entry as Pilkington heads up into the loft. Finally detecting a trap on the stairs before triggering it, Morvahna summons a skeleton at the top. The terrified farmer finally yields and in his sleep deprived befuddled mental state, tells the party of what has transpired. Farmer Pilkington’s farm has been visited three times in the last five days by a pack of terrorizing squirrels. They burrowed into his barn, stealing farming implements and carpentry tools on each visit. Then they run around his house tormenting him with their ‘chirp, chirp, chirp’ squirrel noises. He hasn’t slept at all in the last five days as a result (speaking of nuttier than a squirrel turd ..) The party determines that whatever has been paying the farm nightly visits has arrived and left from the west, in the direction of Widow Hounds cottage. (Farmer McDowell knew Pilkington had set traps about his farm, but “forgot” to mention it, probably because he was so infuriated with Tara, that half elf bitch!)
Returning to the Widow Hounds cottage at dusk, the party sets up surveillance from the nearby trees. They don’t have long to wait before a figure approaches from the west. Tara (nanananana – bionic eyes and ears sound effect) determines that it is indeed someone on stilts with a sheet over their head pretending to be a ghost. Waiting to see how it plays out, the party witnesses the Widow Hound warmly greet the “ghost”, dance with it, and give it the pie she baked earlier. Tara overhears her call the ghost Traver, who the party correctly assumes to mean Traver Foxglove, and plead with the ghost to take her with him. They are able to piece together that she and Traver were having an affair when he was still alive 25 years earlier, and had planned to run away together until the events at Foxglove Manor ended his life. While speaking with the ghost, she also strongly implies that she had murdered her husband so they could be together. The ghost, after taking possession of the pie, leaves back from whence it came, much to the chagrin of the widow who goes back inside to weep. The party leaves the cover of the woods to confront this mysterious “ghost”.
Falcor sneaks up behind the ghost in his heavy banded mail (go figure) and snatches the sheet off to find two juvenile kobolds beneath. To simulate a medium sized ghost, one rides the other’s shoulders and the bottom one walks on stilts, hence the strange tracks. The kobolds beg for mercy and the party pauses long enough for the two to explain themselves. They are Remus, the one that does all the talking, and Romus, the smart one (I was going to use Remus and Romulus, but figured it wasn’t in kobold’s limited linguistic capabilities to enunciate more than two syllables.) The party interrogates the two while Romus desperately tries to finish off the pie before the party kills them. Being fully cooperative, Remus informs the party that they are from a group of kobolds living in a cellar near Foxglove Manor. They were the ones who stole food from Farmer McDowell’s cellar, tools from Farmer Pilkington’s barn, and had been paying the Widow Hound nightly visits disguised as a ghost. Remus assures the party that none of this was done with malicious intent. The stolen food and tools were meant as a sacrifice to someone they refer to as “The Great and Powerful”. Remus is very evasive on the Great and Powerful’s identity, claiming to discuss such matters is bad juju, however Romus lets slip that it is their god. Tara’s lore knowledge recalls that dragons are often worshipped as gods by kobolds. The prospects of such an encounter does not bode well for our intrepid adventurers. Remus also say’s they were the one making squirrel noises at Pilkington’s, first to cover their identity, then in fun as it was a great laugh to get the farmer all riled up. On their first visit to the Widow Hound’s house, they were pilfering a pie left on the windowsill when they overheard her talking to herself about the long dead Traver. They came up with the brilliant scheme to pretend to be this Traver guy’s ghost to get the nice widow to bake more sweet treats, and she, in her self-delusional state, was more than happy to comply (and they would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids!)
Hearing enough, the party agrees to let them live under the conditions that they confess to the widow, return with them to Sandpoint for the night, and guide them to the rest of the kobolds in the morning. The kobolds agree as long as they are provided with as many sweet treats as the two can eat. When confronted with the truth, the Widow Hound has a manic breakdown (the Widow HOUND chased after Traver FOXglove, get it!) The party returns to Sandpoint and present their findings to the sheriff. The two kobolds are locked up in the garrison and they head to the Rusty Dragon to procure sweets, only to find the little creatures have slipped out and followed them. Morvahna agrees to take them to her grotto where her undead minions will act as dread babysitters. Not relishing that prospect, the two give her the slip as well. Come morning, Sheriff Hemlock pays the party a visit inquiring into an overnight break-in and theft at the Sandpoint Sundery’s pastry shop. The party feigns ignorance and quickly departs for Foxglove manor. Along the way, they find Remus and Romus on the side of the road, a pile of half eaten pasties strewn about them, their little bellies distended, moaning in obvious agony (man, I love these two NPC’s! I was thinking of Tulio and Miguel from The Road to El Dorado when I thought these two up.) After collecting their larcenous guides they continue on, cautiously approaching the ominous manor on the cliffs edge. The two kobolds lead the party into the cellar of the burned remains of the servant’s outbuilding where they come upon a haggard group of very young and very old kobolds, as well as the despondent tribal leader. As they offer no resistance, the party wearily listens to the chief’s tale.
For as far back as tribal lore goes, Chief Sootscale and the Nik Nak tribe of kobolds called the swampy expanse of the Mushfens to the south home. Here they competed with the other denizens of the swamp for survival. But Chief Sootscale wanted more than mere survival for his tribe, he wanted a place were they could live in relative safety without the constant warring with other tribes or with humans. Sootscale didn’t want conflict with the ‘biggins’ as the result of such a contest would mean the annihilation of his tribe. This idea met with opposition from the tribes more traditional thinking members, including the tribe’s shaman, Tartuk. Tartuk and Sootscale had a history of butting heads. Sootscale cared more for the welfare of the tribe, while Tartuk cared more for his position in it. They argued over Sootscale’s plan, with Tartuk having the support of the more war-like members and Sootscale having the support of the youngest and eldest in the tribe. Finally, Sootscale won out and led his tribe out of the Mushfens in search of a new home. One morning, the Nik Naks looked up to see the Great and Powerful soaring majestically through the skies. They followed it to its lair in this abandoned manor. Chief Sootscale beseeched the Great and Powerful that they be allowed to stay and worshipper it. The Great and Powerful agreed, as long as the Nik Naks followed it’s laws: no attracting attention to the manor, no attacking the people that live nearby, no one sees the Great and Powerful accept Chief Sootscale. The kobolds agreed and Sootscale sent out his best scroungers to find a food sacrifice for the Great and Powerful. They returned with a feast, including a number of jugs filled with hard cider. It’s here that Chief Sootscale committed his great blunder. He drank one of the jugs and, while sleeping off the effects; Tartuk stole his keys and snuck into the Great and Powerful’s room in order to curry favor with the new god. When Tartuk emerged, he was declared the new Chief of the Nik Naks, deposing Sootscale who, along with his supporters who were renamed the Not Nik Naks, were beaten, robbed, and banished to this cellar. Several times Sootscale sent his sons Remus and Romus out to find suitable tool sacrifices for the Great and Powerful to get it to change its mind, but he could not gain access to its lair. Now Tartuk means to war against the nearby human village. Sootscale fears that this will surely bring about the doom of the Nik Naks and Not Nik Naks alike.
Sootscale beseeches the adventurers that, if they were to ‘deal’ with Tartuk and the more warlike kobolds of the Nik Naks, he would reclaim his position and continue leading the tribe according to The Great and Powerful’s laws. Additionally, he promises that the Great and Powerful will bestow a boon upon them as reward. The party, remembering the insightful words from Sir Didymus, realizes that these are not your average kobolds and are deserving of their assistance (I prefer to think this is the reason rather than the fact that nothing motivates PC’s like the promise of loot, the greedy bastards!) Sootscale warns the party that the front doors are heavily trapped and guarded, and suggests they sneak into the manor’s basement via a hidden tunnel. There they will have to face Shelob, the basements eight-legged guardian.
The cocooned kobold corpses hanging within make the web-strewn basement more ominous. With Tara and Morvahna bringing up the rear, Falcor and Dresch wearily make their way to the center of the room where the monstrous Shelob and two swarms of poisonous spiders set upon them. While the two trade devastating blows with the giant web-slinger, the women attempt to set fire to the swarms using vials of lamp oil, but miss badly (yes, they throw like girls.) After a few rounds of trading blows with the melee’s, including two summoned skeleton minions of Morvahna, Shelob is forced to retreat to its den leaving a trail of ichor in its wake. The remaining swarms set upon Falcor dealing incredible damage, but unable to effect their deadly poison upon the stout warrior. With the last two vials of oil, Tara and Morvahna finally land hits and set the swarms ablaze. They retreat from the punishing flames into their web filled lairs, which only adds to the conflagration that spells their doom. Adopting this tactic, the party finishes off Shelob by setting her lair ablaze as well. However, before fire consumes all of the webbing, the party notices one cocooned victim still kicking and cut it free. The rescued kobold juvenile is Tik Tok, a member of the Not Nik Naks that had tried to sneak into The Great and Powerful’s lair to entreat the god on the tribe’s behalf, but was captured by Shelob instead. Tik Tok is grateful at being rescued and intends to follow the adventurers up through the mansion so it may complete its quest. Either unwilling to put the young kobold into more danger, or not wanting the little troublemaker underfoot, the party sends Tik Tok packing back down the tunnel from whence they came (which was unfortunate as he had some rogue skills the party could probably have used.)
The party climbs the stairs to the main floor and Falcor, the stealthy banded mail wearing dwarf fighter that he is, sneaks a peak out the door into the main hall. Leaning against the wall and propped up by its spear, a sleeping kobold stands guard over the main entrance. The party knows they must dispatch him quickly for mounted to the wall near the sleepy guard there appears to be an alarm device in the form of a stuffed monkeys head with a pull bell rope hanging from its mouth. Tara takes position, draws a bead, and drops the creature with a well-placed shot to the medulla oblongata. The party pauses to collect itself before setting out to tackle the rest of the challenges the mansion presents.
Here ends the first session.