The party discussed their next plan. It seemed they had found all they were likely to find in the old smugglers’ haunt. After dividing up the loot, so that they might carry it forth, they returned to the beach. There, they explored the remainder of the cove; except for more foul-coloured seaweed and a single, strangely discoloured leg bone they found nothing of interest and so quickly returned to their fishing boat. The pilot—Ilja—seemed relieved to see them and several of the party noticed the man noticing the heavy nature of the various boxes and barrels the party had liberated from the smugglers’ den.
The heroes returned to Coldwater without incident and immediately started selling off their loot. They sold the ship’s lantern to Uzlen Itkonen and swapped the junk gold and silver with Armas Hujanen for a couple of magical scrolls for Alice. Armas had been leaving his home when the party passed by the Crooked House and after a brief conversation he invited them inside. It seemed he and the party had similar interests for he was in Coldwater to investigate and research the Blight. Armas told them of the old Purho ruin that stood amid the Blight—which was the name the locals gave to the swath of foul vegetation to the north of the village. The mage asked them to inform him of what they found therein, when they expressed an interest in exploring the old ruin, but declined the opportunity to accompany them therein.
After visiting the Chapel of the Mistress and the Addabar’s shop the party returned to the Stooped Man to rest. Orithur had realised many of the villagers were showing a much heightened level of interest in the party—perhaps because they had carried a vast amount of loot through the village. When the party returned to the Stooped Manb, he rented out every room in the inn so the heroes could rest easily—although they still kept a watch overnight.
The evening in the common room was eventful; Armas and Addabar shared a drink with the heroes and the party learnt more about the Blight and the Purho ruin—chiefly that the Purhos apparently took a very dim view of people poking about in their affairs. Thus, the party resolved to leave early the next morning. While the heroes plotted, Warg created a cunning distraction as the common room seemed much busier than normal; the dwarf appeared wearing the white ballgown the party had found in the smuggler’s den. He paraded about the common room, and made a nuisance of himself; few eyes were on the party as they laid their plans.
The next morning, the party were up and out early before the village had thrown off night’s ebon veil. As dawn’s first weak rays caressed the village through the thinning fog the party set off to the north. As they climbed toward the hills they caught their first glimpses of the old Purho ruin—two stark chimneys standing forlornly against a great mass of thickly growing bramble bushes and weeds. As they climbed higher, the vegetation got progressively more stunted, sickly-looking and ill-coloured.
Near the house itself the growths were particularly fecund and the rank smell of decay and rot hung heavily on the air. Although it was still early, the party detected an abnormal chill in the air and several of them remarked on that fact that the sun’s rays seemed subtly weaker than they should be.
No matter, the heroes approached the ruin—Thangrimm and Orithur in the lead. The druid used his innate abilities to move through the vegetation with ease, although several of the party noticed he was tumbling and tripping over hidden obstacles slightly more than he should be. The only parts of the house still standing were the two tottering chimney stacks. Elsewhere stands of brambles grew thickly over the tumbled remains of the house’s walls.
To the east, a particularly eye-catching clump of sickly purple and yellow flowers grew amid a dense set of brambles. Several of the party thought it likely the brambles and flowers grew over the remains of some structure and while they surveyed the area Orithur spotted a single purple flower growing amid the main swath of ruins. Bravely the druid strode over to examine the flower and chopped it down so he might carry it back to the party for more detailed examination. As the flower fell into the surrounding vegetation it gave forth a small puff of mottled yellow and purple pollen—Orithur immediately suspected danger of some lurking, hitherto unforeseen sort…