Wealday, 19 Lamashan 4707, evening
After defeating the two faceless stalkers posing as Aldern and Iesha Foxglove, and driving off a vampire spawn, the Sandpoint Heroes examines the rest of the three-story townhouse. The entire place had been thoroughly ransacked and looted, although they did find a few valuables that the looters had missed.
The party found what they were really looking for in the third-floor office. Zandu discovered a hidden keyhole in the decorative stone mantle of the fireplace. The small key they’d found in Foxglove Manor fit the keyhole, and turning it revealed a secret hiding place in the mantle itself. Unfortunately, opening the cache also released its guardian: a snake made out of a silvery metal! It attacked the party, and when it bit Halfred, he felt himself injected with a potion of inflict moderate wounds! McGregor identified it as a magical construct, and between the collected firepower of the group, they successfully destroyed it.
Inside the cache was an unlocked wooden coffer containing a small fortune in platinum, a folio of legal documents, and also a slim leather ledger. Among the legal documents were the deeds to the townhouse and Foxglove Manor. The deed to the townhouse seemed unremarkable, but there were some interesting clauses in the deed to the manor house. The house was built in 4624, the deed indicated that Vorel Foxglove only put up about a third of the funds, borrowing the remainder from a group called the Brothers of Seven. The deed indicated that Vorel did not need to replay the loan directly. Instead, the Brothers of Seven would take possession of Foxglove Manor in the year 4724, “including all lands within one mile surrounding and beneath.”
Looking over the ledger of income and expenditures, it seems that Aldern had been paying someone called “B7” the sum of 200 ducats a week, labeled “Iesha’s Sea Voyage.” Payments started about six months ago, and only ended four weeks ago. The location of the payment was listed as “The Seven’s Sawmill.”
“Okay,” said Zandu, “Aldern himself referred to the Brothers, as did the letter from his ‘Mistress’ that we found in his underground bunker. We also know that Iesha never went on a sea voyage— that was just a cover story to explain her disappearance: Alden had murdered her. This weekly payment must be blackmail by this ‘B7’ person— or group. I’d bet it’s a reference to the Brothers of Seven that will get the house in 13 years!”
Charrone turned to Halfred and asked, “you grew up in Magnimar. Have you ever heard of this group?”
Halfred replied, “Yes, actually. The Brothers of Seven are a fraternal secret society of businessmen. They have a reputation of being a bit stodgy, but not terribly interesting or influential. I always thought they got together to complain about taxes and drink ale. As for the sawmill, I never heard of this one in particular, but there are a lot of lumber mills on the river in Ordellia and on Kiver’s Islet.”
The group decided to head back to the inn and make plans to investigate this mill the next day. The night passed uneventfully.
Oathday, 20 Lamashan 4707, morning
Over breakfast at the Shield and Sheepdog, an official-looking woman entered the dining room. Walking up to the party, she said, “Good morning. My name is Miriam Weatherwind, and I am an aide to the Magnimar Justice Council. Lady Charrone of Kintargo, I would presume?”
Charrone seemed a bit puzzled, but rose from her chair. “That would be me. To what do I owe this honor?”
Weatherwind replied, "I have been sent by Justice Ironbriar, the presiding judge of the case against the Bilger Gang. He requests a meeting with you and your band of adventurers later this morning. He would like to discuss your testimony in the preliminary hearing yesterday, and how it will relate to the trial in a few weeks. The Justice was hoping that you could meet him at half past ten this morning, at his office on the third floor of the Pedement Building."
Charrone looked at the rest of the party, most of whom shrugged, and she agreed to the meeting at that time. Weatherwind gave a curt bow and bade them good day.
“So, Charrone,” said Halfred with a grin, “remind me— when did we elect you our leader?”
“I think it’s the extra-shiny armor. It projects authority,” commented Zandu.
After breakfast, individual party members did a little shopping, then met at the Pedement Building in the Capital District. They checked their weapons with the guards at the front door, and a page showed them up to Ironbriar’s office. The office was opulent: a fine Qadiran rug covered most of the marble-tiled floor. Several beautiful paintings of forest scenes covered the walls. A leather couch and three overstuffed armchairs faced an impressive desk of polished darkwood and gleaming brass. From behind the desk rose Ironbriar himself: a black-haired Elven man with unfathomable deep violet eyes. He smiled and walked over to shake everyone’s hands.
“Good morning! Thank-you so much for coming over on such short notice. Please, have a seat.” He turned to the page, “Ronny— please bring in some refreshments for our guests.” The boy scurried out, returning in a moment with a tray of hot tea, fresh fruit, and warm pastries.
“Again, I need to thank you and praise your valor in bringing in the notorious Bilger Gang. We’re putting together the case against them, and we want to have our facts straight. Would you please relate how you encountered them and what happened again…?” For the next half-hour, the party answered these and several other questions about the case. Several of the heroes noted that the questions Ironbriar asked weren’t substantively different than the ones they had been asked earlier.
“So, to sum up,” concluded Irobriar, "you were traveling here from Sandpoint when you were waylaid by the Bilger Gang posing as Magnimar elite guardsmen collecting tolls, you refused to pay, they attacked you, and you defended yourselves." He paused, then looked at the group again, “So, what brought you all to Sandpoint to begin with? You all seem like you prefer a bit more action than Sandpoint would seem to offer.”
Halfred said that he was from here (i.e. Magnimar) originally, and had gone to Sandpoint on business back in the past month of Rova, but stuck around to help the locals with a goblin problem. The rest of the group concurred.
“I thought so!” exclaimed Ironbriar, "You’re the Sandpoint Heroes I’ve heard tale of. Good job with those goblins! And with that aasimar priestess of the Mother of Monsters. Pity you couldn’t have taken her back alive— we could have learned much about her cult." Charrone and Declan exchanged glances. Ironbriar shuffled through more of his papers. "So, how is Sheriff Hemlock these days? He’s still sheriff up there?" Halfred confirmed that fact. “Good man, that Hemlock. I met him a month or so ago. He came down to ask the Lord-Mayor for some extra troops to help quell the goblin threat. Of course, with the trouble we were having down here, the Lord-Mayor couldn’t spare more than a token force.” He paused.
“What trouble down here?” inquired Zandu.
Ironbriar sighed, and a troubled look crossed his face. Charrone thought that the look seemed a bit forced. “Surely, you’ve seen the newspapers. There has been a spate of murders in the city over the past three months. The victims have mostly been prominent people: most were wealthy, and many were connected with shady business practices. The victims were ritualistically tortured before death, and the bodies are mutilated such that a speak with dead spell won’t work. They are always marked with a demonic symbol. I’ve had our best people working on this case, but we can’t seem to get any hard evidence.”
“Well, that’s very troubling,” said Zandu, “You said they’re marked with a demonic symbol. What is it?”
“Yes, it’s an obscure symbol of a lesser demon lord.” He opened a drawer in his desk and produced a tome that appeared to be an illustrated guide to demons. McGregor noticed that it was the same text as the one they’d discovered in the ruins below The Chopper’s former cabin. Ironbriar lowered his voice, “Andirifhkhu, the Razor Princess. The symbol carved on the bodies is in the form of a regular heptagram.” He glanced at the heroes, as if to judge their reaction to this bit of information, but if he saw anything in their eyes, he didn’t let on.
Ironnbriar continued, “We think this mark is a simplified version one of the symbols associated with the Razor Princess: seven blades, their hilts crossed, blades radiating outward. We believe that a cult of demon-worshipers is committing the murders for some unspeakable reason.” He held up the book and pointed to an illustration of the symbol. The symbol the elf pointed to was similar to the Sihedron Rune, but not an exact match. No one mentioned the Sihedron Rune.
“That is extremely disturbing,” commented Charrone. “Have you any idea where this cult might be meeting?”
Ironbriar paused again, seemingly sizing up the individual members of the party. "I have a hunch, but no evidence. I think they’re hiding in plain sight amongst one of the more brazen Sczarni gangs in town: The Gallowed. I can’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that I have heard from reliable sources that the leadership of The Gallows is connected to demon worshipers."
Halfred commented, “The Gallowed? I though they were just a bunch of Sczarni criminals. You know— extortion, robbery, fraud… the usual Sczarni kind of thing.”
Ironbriar gave Halfred a silent, inscrutable look.
Durrok said, grufffly, “Well, that’s very interesting, but why are you telling us?”
“As you’ve worked with Sheriff Hemlock, I was hoping you might be willing to help me out a bit. The Gallowed knows all of my regular informants, but they don’t know you. I’d like you to make contact with the Gallowed and try to determine how deeply the demonic influence goes. Also find out what the plans are.”
The Sandpoint Heroes exchanged glances with each other. Somewhat taken aback, Charrone replied, “Well, we’re usually glad to help out local authorities if they need it, but infiltration of criminal organizations frankly isn’t our strong suit. I mean, we can try to make contact with them, but I would seriously doubt that they’d take us into their confidence.”
“Infiltration isn’t your strong suit?” asked Ironbriar, almost rhetorically, “Hmm. I’d heard otherwise. Well, in any event, if you could ask around, discreetly, and let me know what they’re up to, it would be much appreciated.” Zandu mumbled assent.
Ironbriar rose, and smiled broadly again. “Well, then, thank you for taking the time to meet me. I think we’re set for next week’s trial.” As the party gathered their things to go, Ironbriar then added, “Oh, wait, one more thing I’d meant to ask.” The party turned back. "Why were you asking at the City Archives yesterday about properties belonging to Aldern Foxglove?"
Thinking quickly, Zandu replied, “Well, that was one of the reasons we’d come to Magnimar. It came to Sheriff Hemlock’s attention recently that some unclaimed property belonging to the Foxglove family was discovered. The Foxglove manor house had been abandoned, so we came here to see if there were any heirs to that estate, so we could direct them back to Sandpoint.”
“And, did you find the house?” inquired the judge.
“We did, but no one answered the door,” replied Zandu.
Halfred added, “I peeked in the windows, and it looked like someone had completely tossed the place. I don’t think anyone was actually living there.”
Ironbriar nodded, thanked the party again, and walked them out.
Outside, Charrone said, “Okay, did anyone else get a very strange vibe from that guy?”
Durrok said, “I always get a strange vibe from Elves, but he was definitely sizing us up.”
Zandu added, “Well, he wanted us to know that he knows about us and has been watching our moves. What do you think about that Gallowed gang lead he gave us?”
Declan responded, “I think it’s a red herring. He wants us to chase our tails for a while.”
Halfred said, “Then we’re in agreement. Let’s go check out that sawmill.”