Surrounding the ghostly revenant of Iesha Foxglove, the adventurers debated freeing her from her self-loathing. Ito suspected the ghost would attack her hated husband, Aldern, but not without striking Malcanthet first. They decided to leave her.
The group entered the basement and stepped into a kitchen littered with rat spore. While looking around, a wave of diseased rats poured form the walls. They swarmed Theraga, Maggie, and Ragnok. All suffered bites but the heroes’ whirling blades quickly dispersed the vermin. In a locked cupboard, Maggie found the rest of the Foxglove family’s silverware.
After clearing the wine cellar, pantry and servant’s quarters, they found a thick metal door with no obvious way to open it. Maggie discovered it to be magically sealed but possibly defeated with brute force. Ito and Ragnok bent their crowbar before creating a ram from the kitchen table. After several thunderous crashes, the iron door bent inward enough to pass.
Within, they found a magical workshop with a blanket of dust and mold over numerous jars and glassware. Three birdcages contained the bones of rats. A bank of stained glass windows facing the ocean pictured four mystical beasts, recognized by Kayleb to be associated with the ritual of lichedom.
Kayleb’s vision tilted and was replaced with a stained glass hallucination of Vorel Foxglove researching and gathering components, preparing the ingredients, building a phylactery and the culminating ritual. Just has it was being completed, Vorel’s wife, Kasandra, appeared and with shameful rage blasted the phylactery with a lightning bolt. Kayleb shook the vision off without any ill effect.
The next room contained an excavated ancient stairwell. While staring into the darkness, the foul stink of rotten meat wafted up on a cold breeze. To Theraga the floor still appeared intact. She saw Aldern digging determinedly repeating, “For you,” with every swing. She somehow knew he was speaking about Malcanthet. As the last flags broke open, the reaching claws of a horde of shrieking ghouls surged forth. Overwhelmed, she suffered terribly as they clawed and bit her flesh. She dropped to the floor exhausted as the vision faded. The others stood by awestruck as wounds opened on her writhing body. And then it was suddenly over and she recovered her wits.
The terrible scene steeled the party’s resolve to deal with the source of evil. They descended the spiral stairs. The walls were carved with unfamiliar runes, clearly very, very old. The stairs opened into a fungus-covered limestone cavern with multiple corridors. Maggie started down one and found several pickaxes, including one that looked valuable. She advanced…into a thick, patch of yellow mold. The spore cloud enveloped her and Kayleb, but both managed to escape without harm.
Down another corridor, they heard the eery breathing sounds of an underground pool. En route, a band of ghouls rushed from a bone-heaped chamber. The first pallid undead jumped Maggie and Ito, but the heroes delivered much more damage than they took. With only one ghoul standing, Ragnok struck his massive sword against a hanging stalactite and the blade clattered into the nearby pit. The last ghoul was slain by the others.
The pit was actually an enormous chamber with a domed roof and a slippery spiral downward path ending in a pool of sloshing, foamy seawater fifty feet below. At the far side was a stone door. The party carefully made their way down the path, recovering Ragnok’s greatsword.
Maggie scanned the door and pushed it open. Within she found a large table covered with a foul setting indeed. Platters, plates and crystal contained rotten meat, writhing with maggots, and congealed blood. One wall was covered with a seven foot tall black tumescent fungus patch with a broken puzzlebox at its foot. The stench was overwhelming and came from the room’s other inhabitants.
Pacing the floor was a figure dressed in the horribly-stained silken finery of a Magnimaran noble. The creature had discolored, slimy flesh, twisted claws and a snaggle-toothed, dog-like snout of a ghast. Its weeping red eyes narrowed and a snaky, blood-red tongue swept over its rotted lips. When Malcanthet entered behind Maggie, the ghoul growled, “You have finally come to me! My love, now you may join the Pack. Let us consummate our…hunger!”
It charged Mal as a pair of undead hunting dogs emerged from beneath the table and attacked the others. Mal suffered a war razor slash, but she slipped behind the front line fighters. Ito dropped one of the gravehounds, but even as it cruppled under his deadly fists, the hound chomped the tiefling’s thigh.
Unable to reach Malcanthet, the ghast raged. Maggie, Theraga, and Ragnok battered the foe, until he fell was a shriek of agony, “Please, no more. I surrender! It was him, not me!”
“It was who?” several of the group said at once.
“The Skinsaw Man. He killed all those people, not me, not his poor lordship. He terrifies me! He comes here sometimes and I’m so scared! Please don’t let him get me! I only came here to get what she wanted.” His voice was strange, wheedling and squeaky, not the gruff tones he used on seeing Malcanthet.
“Xanesha. Ironbriar introduced us. He knew my grandfather. He built this place. He is this place.” Foxglove titters. “He wanted to be a lich, but it didn’t work. Instead, this mansion houses his undying soul. I didn’t understand when I came here. But he whispered, and so it all happened. But no, I was talking about Xanesha!” He seems anxious to change the subject. “She wanted me to collect some fungus.” He waves at the odd patch of fungus by the wall. “All that is left of dear old Vorel. It’s quite deadly – she wanted it for a poison. But, but, it infected me. She sent me back to find them – the greedy ones. No, not me, him. Yes, him, the Skinsaw Man. Not me. Not his lordship.”
Malcanthet, incensed that there might be another women, demanded, “Who is Xanesha!”
“Xanesha is with Ironbriar. Here it’s only little me, and the Skinsaw Man. I don’t know where he is, but he comes and goes and does Xanesha’s bidding. He kills for her, all those she marked out. Wait! What’s that? I can hear him! He’s coming, he’s coming!” Foxglove slumped to the floor, held his head in his hands and started moaning.
“He’s here,” growled Foxglove, his voice deepening. He stood up straight and snarled. “The Skinsaw Man kills for the Lord of Murder – you shall be his next sacrifice.” He flicked open his war razor and resumed the battle. Still unable to reach Malcanthet, he slashed and clawed those nearby. Theraga suffered one claw strike and felt her muscles stiffen. Paralyzed she watched as the others rained damage on the Skinsaw Man. Albi rushed into melee but slipped on the bloody floor, cracked his head and fell unconscious. Nearly defeated, the ghast sneered and slashed his razor across Theraga’s throat. The spray of blood arced across the room, as Ito closed and crushed the ghast’s chest. Both Theraga and the Skinsaw Man fell to the floor.
Kayleb rushed to Theraga as others stood stunned. Kayleb shook his head and said, “Her soul has already left her body. There is nothing I can do.”
Somberly, the party collected Foxglove’s loot and Theraga’s body. Maggie and Albi found a wand amongst the fungus and Maggie dug into the growth to pull it free. Albi determined it to be a wand of lightning. He shot several bolts into the fungus, which smoked with a whining screech. Kayleb suggested that more powerful divine magic might by able to permanently exorcise the evil.
Once outside, the adventurers tried to light the mansion on fire. Despite several torches and even Albi’s bomb, the flames licked the walls only briefly before becoming wet smoke. Frustrated and saddened, they group trudged back through the cold rain toward Sandpoint.