Rise of the Runelords

Kidnapped by Danger!

After receiving word that the Hambley farm might be the source of these ghoulish attacks, the party set off for the Whisperwood and Soggy River to investigate. Accompanied by Father Zantus and Orik Vancaskerkin, they made slow progress due to the foggy weather and misting rains. Stopping off at farmsteads along the way, the group encountered increasingly terrified and suspicious farmers. The first sets of farmers spoke of rumors of bad things to the south, livestock being snatched and glimpses of things in the dark. But the closer the party got to Soggy River, the worse it got, finally receiving reports of young adults disappearing and "walking scarecrows" causing people to seal up their houses at night for defense.

Once the group crossed the soggy river, every farmstead was abandoned. Some looked deserted, others attacked, with signs of things (or people) being dragged off. At the end of a long day of travel, the group arrived at the Hambley farmstead. Tsaruqs had remembered visiting the place in his travels with Shalelu and recalled the the barn and farmhouse stood on a small hill in the center of the fields. He and Father Zantus recounted that the man seemed to have no menace about him, only a very greedy and miserly nature. With the poor weather and thick fog, it was impossible to see more than 40-50 feet, and the towering rows of corn and wheat further limited visibility, giving the entire place an eerie air.

Arwyn disappeared into the cornfields to stealthily investigate the area of the farmhouse, but failed to return after several minutes. Worried about their companion, the rest of the group dismounted and led their horses through the fields. Within 30 seconds, the group was attacked by several small groups of ravenous ghouls, still clad in the farmer's attire and looking like terrifying scarecrows as they lashed out from the corn. Tsaruqs called upon the fields to entangle the ghouls, while Aquinas incinerated several with gouts of flame from his fingertips. Rorrek and Tsaruqs proved more than a match for the remaining ghouls. Father Zantus, Orik, and Ka easily fended off the small group that attacked from the rear.

Advancing towards the farmhouse, the group encountered another scarecrow, this time a weakly struggling figure lashed to a scarecrow's post, their head hidden under a sack. This proved to be Lettie Guffmin, a missing farmer's daughter from one of the nearby farmsteads. She had clearly been scratched and bitten by ghouls, and a fever burned through her skin. Father Zantus was adamant about treating her wounds and rescuing her from undeath. Pulling out a vial of holy water, he ministered to her cuts, but her screams and shrieks quickly brought more ghouls, who thundered down the hillside from the barn. Thousands of ravens took flight from the barn, wheeling and turning upon the party.

These carrionstorms were flocks of carrion birds that had feasted upon undead flesh, and they quickly surrounded Rorrek and Tsaruqs, pecking and clawing them. Tsaruqs wild shaped into a bear and feasted upon them, while Aquinas caught the ravens above Rorrek with magical fire, scattering them. Orik rushed forward to meet the ghoulish advance, taking down one with a blow of his great sword, but was quickly beset by three ghouls and went down to their paralyzing touch. Aquinas blasted through several with a lightning bolt, while Rorrek rushed to his fallen friend's aid. Father Zantus scattered several ghouls with a burst of positive energy, buying Rorrek time to rescue Orik. 

The party advanced to the barn and farmhouse, where more ghouls poured from the house, this time led by a one-eared ghoul that exuded a foul, nauseating stench – a ghast. The ghast cackled in joy at the sight of the group. "How excellent! Already today I captured and sent to my Master his beloved – the elf girl. And now I will destroy the rest of his enemies! How His Lordship will reward me!" He leapt to attack, flanked by his ghoulish minions. His overpowering stench sent Rorrek and Aquinas to their knees, unable to cope with the nauseating malodor. 

Orik bellowed out a cry and rushed to the attack, striking the ghast and driving him back. Tsaruqs rushed forward as well, his great bear claws carving into the one-eared ghast. Father Zantus released another burst of positive healing energy, giving the party more time to finish off the ghast. Orik slew the creature with another mighty swing of his sword, and Tsaruqs charged off into the fields as the remaining ghouls fled, intent on keeping their disease from spreading. Upon catching the last ghoul, it turned and struck a lucky blow against him, paralyzing him. Tsaruqs was forced to watch as the ghoul clawed and bit through his flesh, and only managed to survive through the heroic intervention of Orik, who swept in on his horse and struck down the ghoul.

Returning to the farmhouse, they found Father Zantus standing over the body of the one-eared ghast, who was able to identify the ghast as Rogors Craesby, the caretaker of Foxglove Manor. He still wore the key to Foxglove Manor on a cord about his neck, an ornate key shaped as an ornate flower with thorns, the sigil of House Foxglove. Inside the farmhouse, the scene worsened. A ghoulish buffet of rotting flesh and body parts, coupled with blood stains soaking into nearly every bit of exposed wood turned the place into a scene from a nightmare. And lying on the kitchen table was the decomposing body of Crade Hambley, his lower jaw removed and the Sihedron rune clearly etched into his chest. Pinned to him was yet another note, addressed to Arwyn.

In Crade's pocket was a rusty iron key, and Tsaruqs was quick to find a loose floorboard in the master bedroom, which opened into a secret compartment with a locked strongbox. Using the key, they found Crade's life savings, over 8,400 silver pieces meticulously gathered into small sacks. The group quickly gathered the bodies of the ghouls and piled them into the famrhouse, burning the place to the ground. Tsaruqs also found the brother to the poor farm girl that they had discovered earlier, and Father Zantus saw to his bites and cuts. Lashing the two to a pair of horses, Tsaruqs told the horses to bring them to Sandpoint for care. 

Tsaruqs used his scent ability to track Arwyn's trail to the edge of the farmstead and to the road, which led west to Foxglove Manor. Sure that Arwyn had been taken there to see His Lordship and fearing that even now that His Lordship might be trying to force her into undeath, they ignored their injuries and the feverish burn around their own bites and rode into the dim sunset to rescue her.

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