We didn't finish it today, either.
After leaving some food and water out for the inmates at the asylum, the party continued on to the farms to the south where the attacks had been reported. Only... the first few farms they came across seemed somewhat tense, but not very helpful. They tried sneaking into the farmhouses but found nothing, and Kaito's attempts to directly accuse farmers of being ghouls were similarly fruitless.
The best they could get was that the farmers had heard of problems happening farther south, across the river. And sure enough, when they came to the bridge, the two guards set there bragged about killing a pair of ghouls who had been trying to cross. The bodies of the ghouls were mysteriously missing, though...
Afterwards they came to one of the farms that had been reporting the threatening scarecrows. Sure enough, its fields were completely *lousy* with scarecrows. Dozens of them! Also, crows, although they were swarming far overhead and not coming down to land.
They started to make their way through the cornfields, and soon came to a scarecrow set up along the side of the road.
Elsie: "I punch it!"
GM: "The scarecrow screams and twitches, then falls limp."
Undressing the not-really-a-scarecrow revealed that it had been a human man, tied up to the crossbar and left to die. Elsie's punch had completed the dying part. Zakhar verified that the dead man had been infected with Ghoul Fever, so Kaito cut off his head to keep him from coming back as a ghoul.
The next scarecrow, they were much more careful... even after it started slavering and thrashing around trying to break its bonds, they tried to verify that it was really an undead. Until it tried to claw Elsie. Then they killed it.
They went on the same way, killing some isolated ghouls and finding other scarecrows to be actual scarecrows made of hay. Around the fourth ghoul-crow, Kaito remarked that this was too easy, killing them one by one.
That, of course, was when the ghoul swarm attacked. Fortunately, there were enough of them that even when somebody (Elsie) was paralyzed, the ghouls weren't able to take advantage of it, and even in numbers the ghouls were no match. Kaito and Val(?) were scratched up and potentially infected, though. (Elsie was immune, being a monk)
They made their way to the farmhouse, rescuing two not-yet-dead humans and giving them Lesser Restoration extracts to keep them from turning for a little while longer. The barn was full of ghouls, and a plan to poke a hole in the roof to drop in fire bombs was nixed when the roof almost collapsed under Kaito's feet.
Ash: "We should burn it down."
Kaito: "Won't that burn down the whole farm?"
Ash: "I don't care. It needs to burn."
They decided to check the farmhouse first, though. The first thing they noticed was that the door was open -- not a good sign. Sure enough, the only person inside was already dead, and quickly turning into a ghoul just as they entered. He had another creepy note to Phoof pinned to his chest, along with the carved seven-pointed star -- it said that she should accept the infection, as the first of many gifts...
Phoof: "But I can't even catch ghoul fever. I'm a plant!"
At any rate, they finished him off, and found a key on his body that opened a lockbox full of silver, but that also revealed that the farmer had once been the caretaker of the Foxworthy Mansion, which was nearby -- and also near the swamp, where other attacks had been reported.
Kaito: "Is this... you know... that guy? Who was hitting on you, way back when we first got to town?"
It was, Phoof confirmed, and they decided to go pay him a visit... after clearing the farm, and taking any survivors back to Sandpoint so that the clerics there could cure them properly.
By the time they'd cleared the farm and set the barn on fire, it was after midnight. They'd found six people tied to the scarecrows still alive, but one turned before they could reach the city, even pushing their horses. The temple was happy to cure everyone (including the party members who'd been infected), and they were able to report on everything that had happened to the sheriff, who was more than willing to accept their version of the events at the asylum -- he'd never trusted the man.
They they went to sleep, and woke up the next day around noon. They spent as little time as possible before setting out, since they were already running late, but they had time to ask around about the Foxworthys. The word on them was Not Good. Their mansion was basically cursed and haunted, and after two generations of Foxworthys had died in it, the surviving children (one of which was Aldin Foxworthy, Phoof's admirer and current prime suspect in the murders) had been taken farther south to be raised by relatives. Aldin had come back recently to retake his family's hereditary estate, but had had trouble finding anyone willing to help him renovate...
They arrived at the mansion around sunset (OF COURSE), and the first thing they noticed was the huge -- impossibly huge -- flock of crows filling the burned out wreckage of the servant's quarters. The crows took wing and flew off as they approached, so they moved on to the house itself.
The door was already open. This was not a good sign.
Phoof knocked, and called out to Aldin, but no one responded. So Kaito stepped inside, and found himself face to face with a massive stuffed manticore.
Phoof: "Did you hear that? Someone was screaming, upstairs!"
Kaito, Phoof, Altei, Elsie, and Ash headed upstairs to investigate. Noggin emerged from his box, and Val stayed by the door to watch his valet's sleeping body while he flew around. Zakhar... wandered off in another direction completely.
Upstairs, Kaito and Ash opened the first door they found, revealing a child's room. Kaito poked at the fireplace but found nothing, while Ash moved to the gigantic toy chest -- and as soon as she touched it, she started panicking at a vision only she could see, and tried to push Kaito into the (unlit) fireplace before coming to her senses.
Kaito tried touching the toy chest afterwards, to see if he could see the same vision, but to no avail. First come first served for ghostly hauntings, apparently. He did find a bunch of toys inside the chest, and decided to keep a teddy bear as a souvenier.
Elsie, meanwhile, opened another door and found a sitting room with chairs, a couch, and what would have been a wonderful view of the ocean over the Cliffside if it hadn't been for all the super-creepy stained glass. Phoof and Altei could tell that there was something magical about the pictures, but they wouldn't be able to put it together unless they could see the other pieces, since it was obviously partial.
At that point, Noggin emerged from the fireplace, and a startled Elsie hurt her knuckles punching him. He told them that there was another set of stained glass on the third floor, so they'd need to find the stairs up.
Not knowing where those were, they opened up the double doors across from the sitting room, revealing a gallery of paintings all covered in dust and cobwebs. Clearing the crud away revealed them to be portraits of the Foxworthys -- and when they were all clear, the room got very very cold, and the people in the pictures seemed to die in various horrible ways -- burned alive, stabbed, consumed by fungus, or in Aldin's case whithering into a ghoul. Then the fungus exploded from the portraits and washed over them, and all their lights went out.
Kaito lit a sunrod, and in the sudden light the portraits were all covered in cobwebs and dust again, and there was no sign of the fungus... except for some worrying itchy spots on Ash and Altei's arms, that they didn't feel the need to tell the party about.
On the far side of the gallery was a master bedroom, with a bloodstained desk. Kaito and Elsie raced for the desk, both wanting to be the one to get the next vision -- Elsie 'won'.
The others saw her fall to her knees, in tears... and then open a drawer, pull out a giant splinter of wood, and try to cut her own throat! Kaito and Phoof tried to stop her, but were too slow... fortunately, the wood wasn't sharp enough to be instantly fatal, and they were able to knock her unconscious until the fit passed, and then feed her some of Phoof's berries to heal her neck.
Since she was unconscious, they decided to take her downstairs to join Val and the valet outside... she awoke before they got far, but a scream from downstairs convinced them to continue with that plan... except for Elsie, Ash, and Noggin, who decided to keep searching for the third floor. So, basically, they split up.
When they got to the front door, Val was nowhere in sight -- instead, there were thousands and thousands of crows covering not only the burned-out servants' quarters, but also the dead trees in the yard. All of them with glowing red eyes, all of them staring at Phoof as she peeked out the door.
They closed the door again. Apparently, they weren't leaving any time soon.
While they'd been exploring, Val had been outside with Noggin's valet. She'd noticed the crows gathering, but it wasn't until it started to get dark and she noticed the glowing eyes that she decided it was time to follow the others inside -- at which point the Manticore in the front room had come to life and tried to stab her with its scorpion tail. It failed, but the entire room was consumed in fire -- she screamed and backed into a corner, at which point the fire vanished and the room reset.
Continuing on, following some cheery music, she found Zakhar in a piano room carefully inspecting every inch of the floor for... something. She shook him out of his obsession, and he moved on to the next room, where they found a washtub full of ghoul-rats. Zakhar used a bomb to fill the tub with fire, and the rats squeaked and shrieked and REFUSED TO DIE.
Kaito was able to follow the smell of burning fur to lead Phoof's group to them, though, and they quickly compared notes.
Up above, Ash, Noggin, and Elsie first examined a room full of fungal mold, finding nothing of particular note, and then another washroom -- which collapsed as Elsie moved inside to search, dumping her and the upstairs tub into the tub full of fire! Elsie's quick reflexes saved her from injury, at least, and she joined the others below. Involuntarily.
They moved on to a parlor with creepy pacing dust clouds that they couldn't make any sense of, and then to another sitting room on the first floor, with more creepy stained glass.
...and then we stopped, because it was getting late and people were getting antsy. Even if it wasn't an especially good stopping place.
"Six omens, and we still haven't triggered the haunt!"
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