The Watcher of the Mists

Beneath Foxglove Manor
Session 28

Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, early evening

In the crumbling remains of the wizards laboratory, the Sandpoint Heroes found another wooden door on the southern wall. It opened to a set of stairs leading down into darkness. Zandu and Charrone descended the stairs, and the rest of the party followed. The stairs opened up into a dank chamber. The flagstone flooring of the house had been dug up to reveal a much older stone spiral staircase carved into the bedrock. A cold, clammy breeze wafted up from the open stairwell, and there was the distinct scent of death on the air.

Zandu thought that the staircase should be exactly below the strange spiral-shaped mold growth on the floor above. While Charrone looked at the opening, she had a sudden feeling that something wasn’t quite right in the room, so she channeled the burning light of the Inheritor. To the others, a ghostly image appeared, but Charrone saw the image in lifelike color. In her vision, the floor was intact again. Standing where the staircase now lay was a shirtless Aldern Foxglove, an excavating pick in his hands. As he swung the pick downward to break the stone floor of the cellar, he spoke to himself, “For… YOU! For… YOU! For…YOU!” Each time he said the word “you,” he looked directly into Charrone’s eyes. In the vision, he broke through the floor to the staircase, from which a horde of ghouls swarmed over him and carried him down the stairs. The ghouls then rushed Charrone, but as the undead monsters attempted to draw in the paladin’s life energy, she realized that it must be an illusion, and the vision vanished.

The stairs descended about 100 feet and opened up into a natural limestone cave with a high vaulted ceiling. The stench of carrion was very strong in the damp air. Ominously, everyone could hear a distant rhythmic whooshing sound that reminded them of the of a great beast breathing. Three passages led out of the chamber.

The first passage seemed to have once been a natural cavern that was recently widened with mining tools. It opened into a long but narrow natural chamber that contained a pile of humanoid and animal corpses in varying states of decay. One of the victims in the pile of bodies was a very recent kill: the body of the notorious bandit “Redshiv” Bilger, who had a 500 gp bounty on his head in Magnimar. Halfred removed the head from the body so as to claim the purse. As they began to loot Bilger’s corpse, a huge bat swooped down at them, and savaged Halfred badly.

Declan noticed right away that the creature wasn’t technically alive: it appeared to have the abilities of a ghoul! The creature put up a terrific fight, badly wounding Charrone, but in the end, the party was able to defeat it. They turned their attention back to Bilger’s corpse, and found that he had been wearing a mithril chain shirt! They also liberated a coin purse and some other items.

The passageway narrowed to the west, as the ceiling got lower and lower. The passage ended at a deep pool of spring water, and there was an almost perfectly circular hole in the ceiling above it. They felt fresher air coming from the shaft, and Durrok remarked that it was probably the well that they’d seen near the ruins of the carriage house. McGregor suggested that the undead bat was probably using the well shaft to come and go.

Seeing no other way out, the party returned to the entry chamber and took the lower passageway to the west. As it opened up into a larger chamber, four ghouls that had been hiding in natural alcoves lunged at the party! The ensuing fight attracted four more ghouls from deeper in the caverns, but they were no match for the Sandpoint Heroes. Another passage looped back to the entry chamber past a growth of dangerously poisonous mold (which Durrok noticed and told the rest to avoid).

Pressing forward, the breathing sound got louder as the passage forked. To the left was a large natural cavern with the overwhelming stench of death. That seemed to come from a huge pile of bones and corpses piled in a vast heap. Nothing else of interest was in the room, save a very narrow natural passage to the northeast. They turned around and went right, and found themselves in a very large underground chamber with a naturally vaulted ceiling that stretched at least 40 feet upward. It also seemed to be the source of the breathing sound: below the dome, the wet, slick floor of the chamber sloped steeply downward to a pool of churning seawater.

As the party stood there, arrows shot past them from across the pool! McGregor cast dancing lights and sent them into the chamber, revealing six goblin archers on the opposite side of the chamber! As they let a second volley fly, the party noticed that getting across the pool would be very treacherous. Durrok and McGregor stood their ground and returned fire, as the rest of the party went back into the other chamber to see if the narrow crevice would lead to the same ledge that the goblins defended. It did!

Halfred, Charrone, Declan, and Zandu made their way across the narrow, rocky, slippery ledge, while taking heavy fire from the goblin archers. As they closed, they made a grim discovery: the goblins had been turned into ghouls! Charrone and Halfred engaged the goblin ghouls hand-to-hand, and Charrone was briefly paralyzed. Despite many of the goblins’ arrows finding their marks, the party was finally able to overwhelm and destroy the goblin ghouls.

Set into the wall behind where the goblin ghouls had been standing was a stone door.

[To Be Continued…]

View
Exploring Foxglove Manor
Session 27

Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, mid-afternoon

After the extremely disturbing encounter in the portrait gallery, the party moved to a lavishly-decorated bedroom. Unlike many of the other rooms in the house, this bedroom was not damp or moldy, although it was dusty after months of disuse. As soon as McGregor entered the room, he felt an uncontrollable urge to walk over to the desk next to a window. At the desk, he was overcome by feelings of despair and remorse, convinced that he had just murdered the woman he loved more than anything else in the world. He reached into the top drawer of the desk and drew out a polished silver dagger that he knew was in there, and raised it to his own throat. However, he managed to snap out of it before he actually tried to harm himself. The dagger itself was made of alchemical silver and was enchanted; Charrone did not sense any evil aura on it other than the background level of evil that suffused the entire building.

Heading out back into the second-floor hallway, the party entered another bedroom. This one was very different from the last: everything in this room had been hacked to pieces with an axe or knife and was completely destroyed: bedframe and mattress, dresser, desk, and artwork that had hung on the walls. Gashes were hacked into the plaster walls and wooden floors. The only intact item in the room was a painting that was hung backwards, such that the backing of the frame faced the room. Charrone thought that looked suspicious, and attempted to sense evil— and this time, she felt something: an aura of moderate evil that seemed to be located where the painting was. Bracing for the worst, Zandu turned over the portrait.

The portrait was of a beautiful young raven-haired Varisian woman wearing a fashionable yellow dress, standing under an apple tree in bloom. The brass plate on the frame read, “Iesha (Zeldoni) Foxglove, 4711.” When the painting was flipped over, three characters felt a strange feeling: Charrone felt a sudden sense of sadness and loss; Durrok felt a sudden sense of fear; and Zandu’s mind began to be filled with memories and passions that were not his own. Zandu suddenly felt that he was being nagged and nagged and nagged by his shrill harpy of a wife: a woman that he had once loved, but for whom he now felt nothing by hateful comtempt— for he knew that she was now the only thing that stood between him and his glorious plans— and she was standing right in front of him! He drew his kukris and attacked.

From Charrone’s perspective, Zandu suddenly pulled a knife and attacked her without warning! His attack was deflected by Charrone’s golden armor, but he pressed forward. Charrone drew her sword and cried, “Zandu! What’s the meaning of this?” Zandu replied, “No more of your tricks, Kasanda! You’ve crossed me for the last time! Remember when I said we’d be together until death? Well, my wife, it’s time to die!” Charrone summoned the power of Iomedae into her sword, asking for the Blessing of the Merciful: that way, she could defend herself against her friend’s attack without the risk of killing him. Durrok, Halfred, and Declan joined the fight, and together they managed to subdue Zandu before he could do any serious damage. They retired to the music room to recover.

Zandu regained consciousness a few moments later. He explained that he remembered everything, and that he had been compelled to kill the woman he had seen in Charrone’s stead: his wife Kasanda Foxglove. He assured everyone that he was back to his own self again. Charrone did not detect any evil in Zandu’s aura, so Declan healed his damage and untied him.

They found the door to the third floor, which was locked. Zandu was able to pick the lock quickly, and they went upstairs. Most of the rooms on the third floor were either empty or used for storage of old odds and ends, and didn’t contain anything of interest.

The party then opened a door to a room that was located directly above the music gallery. Like the gallery and dining room below it, this was a large room with impressive stained glass windows that faced east. One window depicted a beautiful green-haired woman carrying a golden staff. Her head was thrown back, and she had an expression of agony on her face, as a green ray struck her chest. The ray came from a skeletal hand that entered from the side of the window panel. Charrone identified the woman as Arazni, the Herald of Aroden, who had been slain 700 years ago by the lich-king Tar-Baphon; her body was stolen and re-animated as a lich in the undead land of Geb, where she rules today as the Harlot Queen. [“The newly-ascended goddess Iomedae then took what had been Arazni’s job as Herald of Aroden,” concluded the paladin.]

The second stained glass window’s lower panel was missing, and sheets of canvas had been placed over the hole. The upper panel depicted a a regal but stern-looking man wearing a crown and holding a sceptre of gold and jade. McGregor identified him as Socorro, the Butcher of Carrion Hill, an ethnic Varisian necromancer who slew thousands in the distant land of Ustalav, in his quest to become a lich. “Hmmm…” said Halfred, “I may be a simple warrior, but I’m sensing a pattern in these windows…”

After a moment, Declan (and only Declan) smelled something burning. Looking around, he quickly determined what was on fire: himself! Immediately, the searing pain of the fire caused him to make a desperate decision: the quickest way to put out the flames would be to jump out the window, into the ocean below. Before anyone could stop him, he flung himself through the window depicting Arazni. As soon as he was through the window, the phantom flames were gone, apparently only existing in his mind. He slid down the steeply-pitched slate roof toward the cliff, which was almost 200 feet above the churning surf below! McGregor then cast a spell, engulfing Declan in a mass of sticky spider webs, which stopped his fall. They then used ropes to pull him back into the house.

Also in the room was a leather chair next to a smashed brass telescope and ruined tripod. Rainwater dripped through a badly-sealed trapdoor in the ceiling, that was tied in place with lengths of rope. Also visible were the ruined cogs and pulleys that appeared to once open and close the trap door. Durrok decided to open the door and take a look at the roof, balancing a wooden chair on a table to reach it. It was still raining heavily, but he could see well enough to note that in the ruins of the outbuilding, now thousands upon thousands of ravens roosted; two of the party’s horses lay dead among the stones, and the other four horses were missing. All of the birds turned to look at Durrok as one.

When Durrok climbed back inside, they party heard a woman’s shriek of anguish. Returning to the hallway, they heard the sound of sobbing from behind the next door, which was also locked. Knocking on the door gave no answer, so Zandu picked that lock too, and threw open the door. Inside was another room used for storage of odds and ends. Sitting before a large mirror, sobbing uncontrollably, was the twisted animated corpse of a woman. She wore a bloodstained yellow dress, and her raven hair was streaked with dust and cobwebs. Charrone attempted to engage her in conversation, but she completely ignored the party as she continued to stare at herself in the mirror.

Zandu noted that she might be the same person that was depicted in the portrait in the ruined bedroom. Charrone sensed for evil, and realized that the woman radiated a moderate evil aura, which was not surprising, as she was obviously some sort of undead creature. McGregor suggested that he could create an illusion in the mirror of her reflection as she appeared in the portrait, and the party agreed. Unfortunately, the illusion did not have the desired effect: As soon as she saw the illusion of what she’d looked like in life, she let out a terrifying shriek, stood, and then punched the mirror, shattering it. She shouted, “Aldern! Enough of your tricks! I can smell you— I know you’re near! Remember our last embrace? Time to return the favor!” She turned to the door, which was blocked by Charrone. “Get out of my way!” she shouted at the paladin, and slashed at her with razor-sharp claws. The claws bit through her armor, drawing blood. Charrone drew her sword, and called the power of the Inheritor to smite the creature. Halfred joined the fight, and Durrok fired his crosbow into the melee as well. The creature fought hard, but the three warriors destroyed it.

They group then found an upstairs study, filled with books on travel and geography. Unlike most of the other rooms, this one was dry and relatively mold-free. As the party searched through the study, McGregor had a sudden revelation: Visions of exotic locations, fantastic discoveries, and great deeds filled his mind— quickly followed by the realization that none of these glories had come to past, nor would they ever because he had chosen to settle down with a family rather than reach the heights of glory that he could have seen. The memories faded, but the sense of despair remained. The party found several valuables in the room, mostly trinkets from foreign lands.

Realizing that they had explored all of the upper floors of Foxglove Manor, the group decided to search the cellar. The stairs down led into a kitchen, which reeked of rats and was covered in rat droppings. As the party searched the room, a huge swarm of rats issued out of cracks in the walls, swarming over the adventurers. Weapons proved mostly ineffective (aside from Halfred’s earthbreaker hammer), but the rats scurried away from alchemist’s fire.

The party then searched the wine cellar, and Durrok found a secret stash containing eight bottles of rare wine.

The party also found a curious iron door, that was locked with a very high-quality lock. It took two tries, but it proved no match for Zandu’s skills. That led to a laboratory, apparently under the dining room, as the eastern wall held two stained glass windows. These windows were both of Vorel Foxglove: In the first, he is shown drinking a steaming green potion; in the second, his arms are raised in triumph as his smoking flesh rots away, the smoke billowing into a seven-sided puzzle-box. Also in the room were half-decayed books on a workbench, and three new-looking brass birdcages. In each of the cages was a dead diseased rat. The cages each had a name plate on the bottom: “Pug’s Contraptions — Magnimar.” Halfred had heard of this shop, and knew where it was.

McGregor examined the books. All but one fell apart in his hands as he tried to read them, but all were either histories of famous necromancers and liches, or about necromancy and the process of becoming a lich. One book was still mostly intact, and seemed somewhat valuable.

There was also a second door in the room.

[To Be Continued…]

View
At Foxglove Manor
Session 26

Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707 AR, late morning

As the party stood on the front doorstep of Foxglove Manor, the wind and rain grew more intense, and the distant rumble of thunder added its sound to the wind and surf. The party entered the dark house, drawing forth their magical light sources. The door closed behind them, as if by itself.

The adventurers found themselves standing in a long entry hall with a high ceiling. The place smelled damp and musty, and mold stained the wood floor, plaster walls, and furniture. Heavy dark blue curtains covered the windows, which were themselves covered with mildew, such that only the faintest natural illumination could make it into the room. The room was dominated by a large stuffed manticore that was mounted on a pedestal in the center of the room. While initially impressive, the stitching of the preserved hide was starting to come undone, and the sawdust inside leaked out into small mounds beneath it. Other trophies decorated the walls: stuffed heads of a boar, a firepelt cougar, and a stag. All of the trophies were crusted with mold and cobwebs. The room opened out to another chamber, and a grand staircase led upward. Charrone used the power of the Inheritor to sense for the presence of evil, and found that the entire house was suffused with a trace level of evil taint.

Moving to the next room, which was more of a hallway than anything else, Zandu saw something on the wall that glowed slightly. Examination revealed it to be a gruesome antique: a mummified monkey head mounted on a wooden plaque, with a short silver chain with a wooden handle coming out of its open mouth. Faintly-glowing crystals were set into the head’s eyesockets. McGregor said that it radiated magic. Zandu pulled the chain, and the glow in the eyes grew significantly brighter, and it made a startlingly loud simian shriek. Seeing that it hung from a nail on the wall, Zandu took it down for later examination.

Durrok noticed that the floor in the very center of this room was particularly stained with mold, and that someone had dropped a cheap throw rug over it. Pulling it aside, the party was puzzled to see that the mold beneath it grew in a perfect spiral pattern, about ten feet in diameter.

The group then entered the dining room, to find a large mahogany table covered with a moldy linen tablecloth. Four large stained glass windows dominated the eastern wall, obscuring what would have been a breathtaking view of Foxglove Bay. The subjects of the windows added to the strangeness of the choice: each window depicted a stylized monster rising out of smoke pouring out of a seven-sided puzzle-box. The monsters depicted were: an enraged treant, an immense hook-beaked bird with blue-and-gold plumage (identified my McGregor as a roc), a fierce and angry gynosphinx, and a huge blue squid with evil-looking red eyes (which McGregor believed to represent a kraken).

A door on the north wall led to an east-west hallway with several doors. Behind the first door was a particularly moldy and dusty room with a large couch facing a fireplace with an oversized marble mantle, carved with dancing skeletons and imps. Zandu noticed that the dust on the floor before the fireplace was being rhythmically disturbed, as if someone were pacing back-and-forth. He stepped toward the fireplace to get a better look, and had a sudden strange vision which confused his own identity: Zandu was briefly convinced that he was the lady of this house, and that “her” husband was doing something unspeakable downstairs… but the vision left just as suddenly.

Back in the hallway, the next door opened into a washroom, and in the bathtub was a mangy and diseased-looking rat; its nearly hairless body was covered in bright red knobby tumors. It leaped at Durrok, who managed to knock it away and crush it underfoot.

The next door down the hallway opened into what must have been the ballroom that Mayor Deverin had mentioned earlier that morning. The flooring of the ballroom was once inlaid with intricate geometric patterning, but was now warped with moisture and splotched with black mold. A large crystal chandelier lay smashed in the middle of the dance floor, while frescoes on the walls depicting dancing scenes now buckled with the damp and were riddled with mildew. A baby grand piano leaned in the corner of the room. Zandu opened the cover of the piano, and saw that, while none of the wires had come loose yet, it appeared to be in a sorry state.

The last door in the hallway led back into the entry chamber. When Declan entered the room, he had a strange and disturbing vision. He saw the stuffed manticore suddenly spring to life! It roared and then reared up on its hind legs, its tail bursting into flames. It wound back its tail and then snapped it right at Declan, and a bolt of flame engulfed the priest! Declan felt the heat of the burning, but then saw that the manticore had returned to its earlier state. While the burns were indeed real, none of the other members of the group had seen what Declan saw.

Another door off the entryway led to a small office or study. Zandu opened the curtain to let a little light in, and was surprised to see in the window the reflection of a beautiful young Varisian woman standing behind him. When he turned, there was nobody there, and when he turned back, he only saw his own reflection.

A door in the study led to a library. While the library held several hundred books, nearly all of them appeared to be ruined by mold and dampness. Two comfy-looking leather chairs were before the fireplace, one overturned. A bright yellow-and-gold scarf was draped over the fallen chair. Examining the fireplace, a stone bookend carved in the likeness of an angel was in the ashes of the fireplace. It was stained with dried blood, and one of its stone wings had been broken off. Zandu noticed more dried blood spatters on the floor, and Durrok estimated that they were probably less than a year old. While looking at the overturned chair, Zandu noticed that the silk scarf twitched on its own, then struck at him as if it were a snake! The scarf coiled around Zandu’s neck, and he saw an image of an enraged Aldern Foxglove standing before him, blood spattered across his face, as he used the scarf to strangle him! Zandu was able to get his own hands on the scarf and unwrap it from his neck. The scarf then became a lifeless object again. Looking at it closer, it appeared to be rather valuable, and Zandu stowed it away for later sale.

The party found matched sets of servant’s stairs leading up and down, and decided to head upstairs first. In one upstairs room that was decorated as a child’s bedroom, Charrone had a strange vision: She thought that she was a young child who had seen her mother, armed with a lit torch and an iron fireplace poker engaged in a desperate and brutal hand-to-hand fight with her father, covered in festering sores and armed with a nasty-looking knife. The vision faded, but the memory was very disturbing.

The next door opened into a large gallery, located directly above the dining room. Like the dining room, the eastern wall was set with elaborate stained glass windows, six in this room. The windows depicted stylized images of: a white scorpion, a vampire, a moth with skull-like patterns on its wings, a tangle of green plants with white bell-shaped flowers (identified by Durrok as belladonna), and a spider hanging above a young woman. McGregor noted that most of the subjects of these windows were sources for components of spell in the school of necromancy.

After that, the adventurers entered was seemed to be an art gallery, with walls covered with paintings. All of the paintings were obscured with thick layers of dust and cobwebs. They cleared away the dust to reveal the subjects, and also found that each painting had a brass plate engraved with a name and date. The subjects of the paintings were:

Vorel Foxglove, 4629 AR: A tall clean-shaven man with long, dark hair, wearing dark blue wizard robes.

Kasanda (Delwith) Foxglove, 4635 AR: A stern-faced matronly brunette wearing a green ball gown.

Lorey Foxglove, 4640 AR: A dark-haired girl of about ten, wearing riding clothes astride a horse.

Traver Foxglove, 4677 AR: A tall and thin young man with a goatee wearing formal attire with a plumed hat and a rapier on his belt.

Cyralie (Thaldar) Foxglove, 4681 AR: A pretty young woman with curly red hair and an impish smile.

Sendeli Foxglove, 4686 AR: A beautiful red-haired girl of about 12.

Zeeva Foxglove, 4686 AR: A round-faced girl of about 10 with long brown hair.

Aldern Foxglove, 4690 AR: A strapping lad of about eight, wearing a morning suit.

Aldern Foxglove, 4706 AR: A dashing young man in his early 20s, wearing a stylish jacket and an ascot, he appears much like he did when the party last met him.

In addition, there seemed to be a space for another painting next to the one of the older Aldern.

As soon as all of the paintings had been cleaned, everyone noticed that the temperature in the room suddenly dropped significantly, and the figures in the paintings appeared to undergo a change: Horrific red sores broke out on Kasanda’s and Lorey’s skin, and they slumped over into tumor-ridden corpses. Traver rose a dagger to his throat, and cut a long red slice across it; crimson blood poured out of the wound, and he collapsed. Cyralie burst into flames, flailed about, and then collapsed as a charred corpse. The young Aldern fadeed out of the picture completely, as the older Aldern’s flesh blackened and rotted, his hair fell out, and he deformed into a ghoulish monster. Sendeli’s and Zeeva’s painting iced over, but otherwise ded not change. Finally, Vorel’s portrait, frame and all, erupted into a sudden explosion of slime, mildew, and decay. This wave of fungus and disease washed over the entire room, and all of the party reflexively closed their eyes and turned their heads as they felt the wave of foulness wash over them. When they opened their eyes again, the room was as it was before. However, Zandu felt a disturbing itch on his arms, and saw that a small red patch of mold seemed to be growing on him. Even more disturbingly, no one else could see the mold patch!

[To Be Continued… next week!]

View
Hambley Farm
Session 25

Oathday, 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, night

Through the dark rainy night, the more sharp-eyed members of the party were able to make out the outlines of a barn and farmhouse. Upon approach, they saw that the barn door was open, and Charrone noticed the strong smell of rotten flesh. She rode her charger into the barn to see what was inside.

While the outside looked fine, the interior of the barn was a terrible mess: blood-soaked straw lined the floor, and blood-splattered hay bales were piled near the walls. Piles of bones littered the floor: mostly large animal bones, but several humanoid bones were also visible. Most of the bones appeared to have been gnawed on. Suddenly, from the shadows, leaped six ghouls, who clawed and bit at the paladin! One of the ghouls managed to claw Charrone through a gap in her armor. Through the pain of the wound, the paladin felt an unnatural coldness course through her body, and she found that she was completely unable to move! Fortunately, her trained heavy warhorse knew what to do when surrounded by enemies: Rear and kick! One ghoul took two hooves in the face and collapsed!

The rest of the party converged on the barn, but could not also ride in due to insufficient space. Halfred and Zandu dismounted to engage the ghouls hand-to-hand. Halfred used his ranseur to great effect to keep the ghouls at a distance. McGregor and Durrok provided ranged support of the combatants, and Declan channeled the power of the goddess Sarenrae to burn the undead creatures with the illuminating light of the sun.

As they fought the ghouls in the barn, a second group of ghouls approached from the direction of the farmhouse. This group seemed to be led by a ghoul champion: it wore a chain shirt, and wielded a battleaxe in combat in addition to its natural attacks. It chopped at Durrok, who parried with his crossbow, then dropped it and pulled out his own axe to return the favor. Halfred then wheeled and stuck it with his ranseur. McGregor conjured a bolt of fire and hurled it at the ghoul leader, but it went wide, only singeing a large patch of grass.

Charrone snapped out of her paralysis and took out more regular ghouls. Declan channeled energy again, and this time all of the normal ghouls collapsed, smoldering. Halfred then drew his falchion, stepped in, and finished the leader. McGregor cast detect magic and saw that the leader’s axe was magical. Durrok claimed it as a prize. He also wore an expensive-looking gold and jade ring, and had a large key on a leather cord around his neck. The key had a family crest etched on its head that no one could identify.

The farmhouse was empty of creatures. The front room had been completely ransacked. Nailed to the wall was yet another victim of the ritual murderer. This victim was female, but was otherwise done up as the rest: hands nailed to the wall, jaw removed, blouse cut open, and the Sihedron Rune carved into the flesh of her chest. Like the other victims, a note addressed to Charrone was pinned to the body:

Charrone Genteur, Paladin of the Inheritor:

Take the fever into you, my love! Consider it the next of my many gifts to you.

Your Lordship

Zandu searched the room in the back of the house, which appeared to be a bedrrom. Under a loose floorboard under the bed, he found an unlocked wooden coffer containing 33 small leather bags. Each of the bags held 100 silver shillings, except for two, which each held 50 gold ducats.

Declan asked the surviving humans who lived at the house. One of them replied, “Just Mina Hambley and her husband Zak. I heard that Zak had been getting good prices for his barley up in town, but old Mina would never let him spend any of it!”

The party then built a pyre with most of the family’s firewood in the pasture behind the barn. They collected the ghoul bodies and burnt them on the pyre. They did the same with Mrs. Hambley’s body, which they tried to conceal from the other farmers.

Letting the sick farmers ride the horses, the party then returned to Sandpoint. Between Declan, Charrone, Brother Zantus, and Hannah Velerin the healer, everyone who had been infected by ghoul fever was on the road to recovery.

Of note, however, was the state of Grayst Sevilla: despite being cured of the fever, he remained out of his mind. He continued to shriek ravings like “The Skinsaw Man! He’s coming! The Skinsaw Man will carve you up! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, morning

Over breakfast the next morning, Durrok agreed to assist the party fight against whatever foul presence was causing a ghoul outbreak. Before leaving, the party checked in with Sheriff Hemlock to ask about the key they’d found. Hemlock identified the crest on the head of the key as that of the ill-fated Foxglove family.

“What do you mean, ‘ill-fated?’” asked Charrone.

“That family has had its share of misfortune over the years, but the mayor knows the story of the family better than I do. Why don’t you ask her about them.”

The mayor was in her office when the party called on her, and was shown in.

“The Foxglove family? They were a wealthy merchant family from Magnimar. About eighty years ago, one of the Foxgloves (I don’t remember his name) bought a large chunk of land on the southern shore of a mostly useless bay that’s about three miles south of here. The bay is beautiful, but is completely surrounded by rocky sea cliffs that are over 100 feet tall, which makes it quite unsuitable as a shipping harbor. Anyway, he built a nice manor house overlooking the bay, and moved his family up there from Magnimar. But some sort of tragedy befell the family, and the house was abandoned for decades. It acquired a bad reputation since then, especially among the Varisians. They say that there are strange lights in the attic windows, sounds of screaming and moaning, and some even say that’s where the Sandpoint Devil lives. The locals call the whole Foxglove property ‘Misgivings.’ Over the decades, some of the Foxgloves have tried to reclaim it, but the only one that made any progress on that front was Traver Foxglove about 20 years ago. He and his wife and three children managed to bring up a bunch of workers from Magnimar— no one from around here was willing— and did a decent job of fixing it up. I remember being brought to a party there when I was about 14, and I thought that their ballroom, although small, was very fashionable.

“But tragedy struck again. A fire broke out in the carriage house, and Traver’s wife died. The poor dear was found burned and smashed on the rocks below the cliffs— it was thought that her clothes caught fire in the carriage house, and that she jumped into the bay to put out the fire. Traver was found in their bedroom, dead by his own hand. The three children went to Korvosa to live with relatives.”

“What about Aldern Foxglove?” asked Charrone. “We met him on Goblin Day, and he told us that he and his wife had been living there and renovating the place, but that his wife was lost at sea, and he had ceased renovations for now.”

“Aldern? Yes, he was Traver’s youngest. He’d be about…25 or so now? I had heard that he was in town last year trying to hire workmen to fix up the place again, but couldn’t find anyone willing to do it.”

With that, the party thanked the mayor, and set off for Foxglove Manor.

Fireday, 14 Lamashan 4707, late morning

The weather that day was foul: rainy, windy, and raw. A cold sea wind blew off the Gulf of Varisia as the party followed the Lost Coast Road south. When they got to the bridge over the Foxglove River, they say a poorly-maintained road heading off to the west along the north bank of the river. After about half an hour of travel, they crossed the river over an ancient, decaying stone bridge, and heard the distant sound of surf.

The trail wound precariously close to the staggering sea cliffs of the Lost Coast, some 200 feet high. The surf could be heard pounding violently against the cliffs and the air had the heavy scent of brine and seaweed. Gusts of wind whistled longingly through the crags of the sea cliffs. The trail rose, and turned a steep corner in the cliffs. The silhouette of a manor house loomed ahead, seemingly at the edge of the world.

The place seemed to have earned its local nickname of “Misgivings,” for the house appeared to be poised for a suicide leap, perched as it was on the precarious cliff above Foxglove Bay. The roof sagged in many places, and mold and mildew caked the crumbling walls. Vines of diseased-looking wisteria strangled the building in many places, hanging over the precipitous cliff edge almost like tentacles. The house was crooked, its gables angling sharply, and the roof was breached in at least three places, haphazardly repaired by planks of sodden wood. Chimneys rose from various points among the rooftops, leaning like old men in a storm. Grinning gargoyle faces leered from under the eaves. Durrok thought it remarkable that the manor house continued to cling to the cliff, as the entire far side was little more than a sheer drop to the ocean below, a fall of about three hundred feet.

In front of the manor, the foundation stones of a long-burnt outbuilding stood sentinel astride the weed-choked approach. As the party drew nearer, they saw a handful of sickly-looking ravens fly clumsily away. There seemed to be no shelter for the horses, so they tied them up in the ruins of the outbuilding, figuring that the stones would at least give the animals some protection against the wind.

They approached the house and knocked on the front door. Hearing nothing other than the sound of wind whistling through the gables, Zandu tried the door. It was locked. He then tried the key recovered from the ghoul leader, which fit perfectly. He turned the key, and the lock opened with an audible ‘click.’ The doors swung open, and the party peered into the gloom beyond.

View
The Walking Scarecrows
Session 24 (part 2)

Oathday, 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, dusk

Just a few minutes after getting to the Lost Coast Road, the party heard a man shouting behind them. Turning, they saw a scruffy-looking farmer running toward them, shouting for help. They stopped and the man approached.

“Thank the gods! You gotta help us! Scarecrows! They’re coming to eat us all! It’s Mumble Scarecrow from the old nursery rhyme! We need the Sandpoint Heroes! It’s not goblins, it’s scarecrows! You gotta save us!” Everyone could smell the moonshine whiskey on his breath.

Charrone almost rode off immediately, but Declan took a moment to try to calm the man down and get the full story. He identified himself as Ben Grump, a farmer from about three miles away. The man took a few long pulls at a ceramic jug he had with him, then turned it upside-down. “Empty. Okay, for the past two weeks, people in the southern farms have been seeing walking scarecrows stalking through the night! It’s like the old scary children’s rhyme, you know?” Only Zandu seemed to know what he meant, and he recited,

Mumble Scarecrow, alone in the maize
Sleeping in the daytime, stitched-up he stays.
But when the moon she rises, up Mumble gets,
He shakes his hands at first, and moves his feet next!
And when your mamma’s snoring, and you’re fast alseep,
Mumble Scarecrow might find you good to eat!

“Well, anyway, at first we thought it was maybe kids playing a game, or maybe goblins having some kind of sick fun, but then livestock started disappearing, and then people did too! People said they heard screams in the night, then some folks just weren’t there no more! It started near the old Hambley place— that old farm is just outside Whisperwood, and all kinds of evil things live there. We didn’t want no soldiers marching around our farms, so we decided to take care of things ourselves. Two nights ago, about two dozen able-bodied men and women got us torches and pitchforks and hunting dogs, and Louey got out his old sword from when he was a soldier, and we went over to Hambley’s Farm. But when we got there, the walking scarecrows jumped us! They looked like scarecrows, but they had teeth and claws, and they started killing us! Some they ate right then, some they dragged off screaming into the cornfields! They even ate the dogs! Three of us ran off, and two of them scarecrows chased us. I was the only one to get away. I was hiding out in that barn, but I decided I needed to get help when I saw you folks riding by!”

When asked if he could lead the party to the farm, he declined, saying that he’d rather go to town where it’s safer. (No one mentioned the murderer that was stalking town.) The orderly that was driving the patient wagon agreed to take Mr. Grump to town, and the party got directions to the Hambley Farm. The wagon rode north, and the party south along the Lost Coast Road.

About an hour later, the party got to the trail that Grump said would lead to the Hambley Farm. It was still raining, and had gotten quite dark. As the party rode down the trail, Zandu heard the sound of fighting ahead. As they approached, they found an armored dwarf fighting four animated scarecrows, and rushed to the dwarf’s aid. While fighting, the dwarf identified himself as Durrok Wolfhammer, and with the support of the rest of the party, they quickly dispatched the scarecrows.

“They may look like scarecrows,” said Declan, “but these things are definitely ghouls.”

Durrok explained that he had been traveling from Janderhoff to Sandpoint because he’d heard that Sandpoint had been having trouble with goblins, and he was an expert goblin-hunter. He said that while passing through this area, he’d heard reports of walking scarecrows near the Hambley Farm, and came to investigate. The party said that they were on the same mission, and offered an alliance. The group then followed the trail, which led through a cornfield.

They passed a couple of scarecrows propped on poles, then they noticed a third, and that this one was moving. It tore itself off the pole, and attacked the party, but they defeated it easily. While fighting that one, three more came out of the darkness, and in the fight, Zandu got mauled pretty badly by one. After these were defeated, the party scouted through the trails that ran through the cornfields. They discovered about 18 ghouls dressed as scarecrows hanging on poles, a few normal scarecrows that were just stuffed with straw, and three normal humans dressed as scarecrows hanging on poles. (Charrone almost attacked one of the humans, but managed to hear it calling for help before she struck.) The humans (two men and a woman) all had advanced cases of ghoul fever. They all said that they had been attacked and bitten by walking scarecrows, had a burlap sack tied over their heads, and were hung from posts for days on end. The party asked the people to stick with them, and followed the main trail to the Hambley farmhouse.

View
At the Asylum
Session 24 (part 1)

Oathday, 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, late afternoon

[GM’s note: At this session, we welcome two new players: Matt (Charrone) and Theresa (Durrok)!]

Declan, Halfred, Charrone, McGregor, and Zandu saddled their horses and rode south to Doctor Eric Habe’s asylum, The Saintly Haven of Respite (which most locals called “Habe’s Sanitarium”), to try to talk with the hospital’s newest patient. Sheriff Hemlock gave the party a short letter of introduction, in case Doctor Habe proved to be uncooperative. The day was unseasonably warm, and rainy. They set out south along the Lost Coast Road, as the rain got a bit heavier.

After an uneventful, though soaking hour, the party found itself approaching the sanitarium. The hospital was a squat stone building on the top of a hill, looking across Cougar Creek to the Ashen Rise plateau. A small but well-maintained wooden cottage stood near the road at the bottom of the same hill, which the party had been told was Doctor Habe’s home. Zandu knocked on the door of the cottage, but no one answered.

At the top of the hill, the party hitched their horses and knocked. It was about five minutes before anyone answered the door. A peephole slid open, and a voice said, rather gruffly, “We’re very busy right now and are not taking new patients. Please come back tomorrow.” The peephole slid shut. Zandu knocked again, and the same man answered, looking angry. “Now see here,” the man said, “this is not a good time to check anybody in. Please come back tomorrow.”

Zandu held up the letter of introduction. “I’m Zandu, a Sandpoint town watchman, and we are here at the request of Sheriff Hemlock to see Grayst Sevilla.”

The man opened the door a crack and took the letter. He frowned as he read it. “Very well, come in. I need to tell you that Mr. Sevilla is extremely ill, both physically and mentally. He’s not responding to either treatment, and he’s not very coherent. You would probably have better luck questioning him in two or three days, once he’s better.”

“We don’t have that kind of time,” said Charrone. “We believe that Mr. Sevilla is the only living witness to a murderer who has killed at least five people over the past week. We need to stop the killer before he kills again, and Sevilla may have information we need to catch him.”

Habe signed. “All right. But only two of you in his room at a time, and I will be there too.” Everyone agreed.

Sevilla’s room was on the third floor. As Habe was unlocking the door, he said, “Again, Mr. Sevilla has undergone a great trauma. He is not coherent, and is sometimes prone to outbursts.” He swung open the door. “Grayst,” he said in a soothing voice, “Some nice people from Sandpoint are here to see you. They would like it very much if you would talk with them.”

Grayst was sitting on a crude stray mattress on the floor of the cell-like, windowless room, mumbling to himself. Halfred noted that all of the walls of this room were stone. Sevilla mumbled to himself while banging the back of his head against the wall. Sevilla did not look well at all: his skin was gray and pasty, his hair seemed to be falling out in clumps, his lips and guns were cracked and bleeding, and most creepy were his eyes: they seemed to be covered with a milky-white film. The room smelled like he’d soiled himself. Habe, Declan, and Charrone entered the room. He mumbled, “Ha! Ha! Ha! Too many teeth…he has too many teeth… and a razor… razor cuts all away… all away… The Skinsaw Man! The Skinsaw Man is coming! Master is coming!”

Habe bent down and said, loudly, “Grayst, some people from the town guard are here. They want to talk with you. Can you hear me?”

At that, Grayst looked up at the party. As soon as he saw Charrone, his expression changed, becoming very serious. He gasped, and struggled to his feet. “It’s you!” he said, “Lady Charrone! You came! He said you would visit me. His Lordship said so when he unmade me! He has a place for you. A precious place… but not for me. Nothing for me.” He sobbed for a moment, then continued, “He has a message for you. He made me remember. Let me see… what was it? Yes! He said that if Lady Charrone came to see me to say this: Come to his Misgivings! If you came to his Misgivings and joined his pack, and then he would end his harvest in your honor! In YOUR honor! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” He then collapsed onto the floor half-laughing, half-sobbing.

Habe bent down again, “Grayst, I think they might have more quest…” Cutting the doctor off mid-word, Grayst screamed like a wild beast, and then sprang up in a burst of speed, ripping free from his straightjacket. He lunged at Charrone, screaming, “Master loves you more than me!” Before the paladin could react, he pounded his fists against her, but he only bloodied his fists on her armor. Declan, Charrone, and Doctor Habe subdued him again, as two orderlies ran in and fit him into another straightjacket. This time, they tied his arms with ropes as well, then fixed a metal collar around his neck and chained him to the wall.

“I’m so sorry, my lady. I knew he was having outbursts, but I had no idea he would get so violent. I think he needs to rest, and we’ll continue his treatment.”

“And just what, exactly, is that treatment?” asked Declan. “To my eye, it would appear that he has an advanced case of ghoul fever, and he’s slowly dying from it. When he dies, he’ll rise again as a ghoul. But I think you already know that. I didn’t see any signs that you had actually done anything for him.”

“He hasn’t been responding to the treatment. Plus, his mind is gone. That’s not a symptom of the disease.”

“Again, what are you actually doing for him? As far as I know, only divine healing magic can cure a victim of ghoul fever from the malady. Brother Zantus can perform that ritual— yet you haven’t called him, have you?”

All eyes gazed at the doctor. Looking around the room, he suddenly seemed very nervous. “Very well. No, I wasn’t treating him. I was documenting his transformation. This hasn’t been documented in the medical literature in decades. I was advancing medical knowledge. From what I gathered on Mr. Sevilla, he’s a murderous, thieving, thug, with no family in the area. No one will care one whit if he passes! He’s far more valuable as a research subject.”

“And, what would you have done with him when he transformed?” asked Charrone.

“That’s one reason we’ve been keeping him restrained. When he finally transforms into a ghoul, we’ll use holy water to destroy it. That’s the planned end of this experiment.”

“Doctor Habe,” said Zandu, “there are other patients here that seem to be doing okay under your care, but what you are doing isn’t right. We are transporting the patient back to town, to be cured by Brother Zantus, and I will be reporting this to the Sheriff.”

The party worked with the orderlies to load Grayst into Doctor Habe’s patient transport wagon, and hitched up Habe’s horses. One of the orderlies took the reins, and the party headed back north to the Lost Coast Road.

View
The Lumber Mill
Session 23 (part 2)

Oathday, 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, morning, Sandpoint Garrison

“Okay, Halfred, when was the last time you saw Katrine Vindler?” Sheriff Hemlock sat across a wooden table from Halfred. Zantus stood in the corner, with his arms crossed. Zantus had cast a spell a few moments earlier.

“Um, it was… Starday, I think. We had lunch at Risa’s. That’s when she called it off.”

“Yes, so I’d heard. What did she tell you?”

“That she and new new guy… what was his name… Bunny? Yeah, she and Bunny were going to get married, and she couldn’t see me any more.”

“And how did you react to that news?”

“Well, I was a little annoyed that she decided to tell me after I’d paid for lunch. But other than that, I dunno… a little disappointed I guess. I mean, Katrine’s a nice girl, and we had a lot of fun, but I always thought that one of us would move on eventually. She’s not the settling down type. I hope Bunny knows what he’s getting into.”

Hemlock looked at Zantus, who shrugged.

“Halfred, Katrine and Banny Harker are both dead.”

“Yes, I get that. And you’re questioning me, rather than trying to find whoever did it. Seriously, this is ridiculous! Why are we even having this conversation?”

“Halfred, your girlfriend broke up with you for another man. In public. Now, that would make most men angry. And you’ve got quite the temper. We’ve seen what you can do when you get angry. On Goblin Day, that one goblin’s head flew ten feet through the air, remember? I also understand that you started the brawl in the Feedbag Tavern yesterday. And now a woman who broke your heart and the man she left you for have both turned up dead. So, you understand, I have to ask the ex-boyfriend with the famous temper.”

“Um… that’s different. You see, I don’t have a temper, I’ve got a, um…” he said a phrase in Skald “…which means ‘fight-rage,’ and… okay, that doesn’t translate well, but it’s a technical term among Ulfen berserkers, and… okay, that doesn’t really help me either, but, um…”

Hemlock looked at Zantus again, who shrugged again.

After another hour of questioning, Hemlock said, “Okay, Halfred. You’ve convinced me. I didn’t think that you were the kind of man that would do this, but you were a logical suspect and I had to rule you out. I hope there are no hard feelings?” Hemlock extended his hand, and Halfred shook it. “Again, I hope we can put this behind us. If you didn’t kill Katrine and Banny, we need your help in finding who did.” Hemlock and Zandu then headed for the Lumber Mill with Halfred.

“Zandu,” said the Sheriff, “I want to assign you as a permanent liaison from the town guard to Halfred and his friends. I’m taking you off your regular duty roster. Your assignment now is to work with the Heroes of Goblin Day to find this killer before the body count gets any larger than it has to.” Zandu agreed.

Wealday, 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, morning. Sandpoint Lumber Mill

Othart led Charrone, McGregor, and Declan to the mill. A small crowd had gathered outside it, but other guards kept them out. They walked past the guards into the main floor of the mill. The reeked of fresh sawdust mixed with blood and the stench of death. Propped against one of the walls of the mill was the corpse of Banny Harker. The body was done up in the same way as Vishki’s and Ted’s: hands spiked into the wall, jaw and skin of the face removed, the shirt cut open to reveal the bare skin of the chest, into which was carved the seven-pointed Sihedron Rune.

“But this time, there’s a second victim,” said Othart, and pointed to the main log cutting chute. The chute was covered in blood. Normally, the chute was used to feed logs into machinery that cut them into several boards at once. However, someone had pushed poor Katrine Vindler head-first into the chute while the saws were running. Pieces of her mutilated body lay in a pile atop blood-soaked boards and sawdust. A bloody handaxe lay on the floor next to the chute.

There were a lot of tracks in the sawdust. “I wish Halfred was here,” said Charrone, “he could probably make sense of what these tracks mean.” Declan paused for a moment. “Hey— if these people only died last night, why does it smell like something’s been dead for weeks in here?” McGregor picked up the axe, and saw that, in addition to the bloody hand prints on the handle, there were blackish smears on the blade, including some bits of black rotten meat. The axe seemed to be where the stench of death was originating. “Ugh, this smells like a ghoul!”

Meanwhile, Declan examined the body. In addition to the obvious wounds, Declan found two other wounds that appeared to be claw marks. The claw appeared to have five talons and to be about the size of a man’s hand. Declan thought that the stink of decay around this body seemed to be mostly coming from the claw marks.

Declan asked who found the bodies, and Othart said it was a man named Ibor Thorn, the night operations manager. He and Harker often ran the mill at night, to the consternation of the neighbors. Thorn was upstairs in an office. The party questioned him, and in the course of the interview, Thorn said that Harker and Katrine had been getting together for trysts at the mill for weeks, to keep out of sight of both Halfred and her father (who had never liked Harker). He also said that Harker had been embezzling money from the mill, and had amassed a small fortune. He wondered if the mill owners might have caught on and put an end to Harker’s greed once and for all.

At about this time, Hemlock, Zandu, and Halfred arrived at the scene. Hemlock said, “We also found this,” and held out a letter. It read:

Lady Charrone of Kintargo, of the Empire of Cheliax,

My Love,
You will learn to love me, to desire me as she did. Give yourself to the Pack and it shall all end.

Your Lordship

“More ‘Your Lordship’ stuff. I still have no idea who could be doing this,” said Charrone.

“Do you have any former lovers who could be responsible for this?” asked Hemlock, gently.

“No. I haven’t had time for a relationship since I left Kintargo more than a year ago.”

McGregor chimed in, “Hey, what about that guy we rescued from the goblins? He took us all boar-hunting until we were ambushed by more goblins. I think he liked you, Charrone. What was his name again?”

“Foxglove,” said Charrone, “Aldern Foxglove. He’s supposed to have a house somewhere near here. Of course, when last we spoke, he said that he was leaving for Magnimar.”

“There’s something else, as well,” said Hemlock. “We found three more bodies mutilated like these just outside of town last night, too. They’d been dead for the better part of a week, and we missed the clue. About a week ago, we got a report that a madman was harassing travelers north of town. Well, we found Grayst Sevilla, a known local Sczarni thug, wandering along the Tickwood Road, shouting at travelers. We brought him in, and he seemed really sick, babbling about his master and a razor and teeth. He also kept saying something about Bradley’s Barn. Well, we assumed that he had a combination of the grippe and too much Flayleaf, so I took him down to Habe’s Sanitarium to get better. But with the murders of Ted and Vishki, I thought that Bradley’s Barn might be worth checking out, so I sent a patrol by there. They found three more bodies, done up like poor Banny there. The three are local swindlers who even the Sczarni won’t take in: Tarch Mortwell, Lener Hask, and Gedwin Trabe. I asked around a bit more, and found that Sevilla had been working for Mortwell as a body guard before the four of them left town for another con, a week ago. I found this letter on Mortwell’s body…”

Messrs Mortwell, Hask, and Trabe:

A deal has come about that I need capital in. It involves property and gold, and though I am not at liberty to tell you the exact details, it will make us all rich. Come to Bradley’s Barn on Cougar Creek tonight. We can meet there to discuss our futures.

Your Lordship

The letter, while written in black ink, otherwise seemed to be the same kind of parchment and the same handwriting as the letters from “Your Lordship” to Charrone.

Hemlock said, “I need to stay in town to keep the townsfolk from panicking. Sevilla might have more information about ‘His Lordship.’ I’d like you to go to the hospital and see what you can find out.”

View
Murder Most Foul!
Session 23 (part 1)

Wealday 12 Lamashan 4707 AR, late afternoon

After the defeat of the shapeshifting creature that had assumed Ted’s identity, the party paused to absorb the terror and shock of the loss of their friend. Halfred dragged the corpse of the shapeshifter back to the cavern that held the body of the real Ted, in case the creature suddenly woke up.

Declan examined Ted’s body, and determined that he had been killed about a week earlier, and that the cause of death was most likely that his throat had been cut by a sharp blade. There did not appear to be any other wounds on the body, which seemed strange. Charrone asked why the nearby ghouls hadn’t tried to eat him. No one had a guess to that question. Zandu left to find the sheriff, and Charrone, Declan, and McGregor quickly re-explored the rest of the Catacombs. They found two more chests of flayleaf in the statue room, but otherwise the Catacombs appeared to be empty.

The Sheriff and three guardsmen arrived not long thereafter. Looking at the corpse of the shapeshifter, the sheriff said, “That think is a creature that’s called a Faceless Stalker. I’ve seen them once or twice over the years. It’s said that a small enclave live in the Brinestump Marsh south of town. No need to keep guarding it— once they’re dead, they’re dead. The smarter ones sometimes hire themselves out to be spies or assassins.” McGregor said that he was sure he’d seen the impostor cast a spell, which was one reason he had been convinced that it was really Ted. “Well,” replied Hemlock, “I’ve heard it said that a small number of them are actually sorcerers, and can use their magic to enhance their ability to go undetected. They are a very insidious creature, bur fortunately quite rare.”

Hemlock turned his attention to Ted’s body. “Exactly the same as Vishki, only three days older. This is some kind of ritual. I’ve seen this kind of thing before, five years ago, with the Chopper. He killed random people, mutilated them, and left the bodies for others to find. Of course, the specifics are different: the Chopper always cut out his victims’ eyes and tongues. This guy is cutting off the jaw and all the skin of the face, and then he carves that star on the chest. Have any of you seen this symbol before?” McGregor explained that it was similar to an ancient symbol of Thassilonian arcane magic. “Well,” sad Hemlock, “there aren’t any ancient Thassilonians running around any more, so I guess we can rule them out.” No one laughed at his attempt at black humor.

Charrone said that she would write a letter of condolence to Ted’s family in Magnimar, and asked what should be done with the body. Hemlock replied that the town would be honored to inter his remains in the town boneyard, and that Ted’s grave would be revered as one of the Heroes of Goblin Day. The rest of the party agreed, and the bodies were placed onto litters and removed from the Catacombs. The bodies of Ted and the imposter were taken to the Garrison’s morgue, while the ghoul bodies were taken to the beach below the Old Light to be burned.

Wealday 12 Lamashan 4707 AR, evening

Back at the Rusty Dragon, the party searched Ted’s room. They found that, while Ted had kept a neat and tidy living quarters, the chamber was in a state of lived-in disarray. Two things of note: Ted’s alchemical equipment hadn’t seemed to have been used in about a week, and all of the quills Ted used to write scrolls were dried up. However, between what was on the impostor’s body and what was in the room, all of Ted’s possessions were accounted for.

After a late dinner, the party lingered over drinks to drown their sorrows. Another patron managed to talk the owner, Ameiko Kaijitsu into one of her rare impromptu performances, and she sang an old, sad folk song about death and loss, accompanying herself on the cittern.

The song brought a tear to many an eye, and the adventurers went to bed shortly thereafter.

Oathday 13 Lamashan 4707 AR, just before dawn

Halfred awoke to the sound of someone knocking loudly on his door. “Halfred! It’s the Sheriff. Please open up.” Halfred got out of bed, pulled on some clothes and opened the door. He was surprised to see the Sheriff Hemlock, grim-faced, with four town guardsmen behind him, hands on the hilts of their swords.

“Halfred, I’m certain that this is a misunderstanding, but I have to ask you to please come with us to the Garrison. I need to ask you a few questions about the past few days, and I hope that we can clear everything up. But this isn’t a request— you need to come with us now.”

Halfred protested, saying that he wasn’t going. Hemlock sighed, and said, “Okay, Halfred. Sorry we had to do it this way. I am arresting you on suspicion of the murder of Katrine Vindler.”

Halfred, shocked at the accusation, protested rather loudly, waking up Declan and Charrone. Fearing more shapeshifters, Charrone said that she would accompany the sheriff and Halfred. Hemlock didn’t object, but he did say that it would only be himself, Halfred, and Brother Zantus in the interrogation room. He also said that Othart would stay behind to brief the rest of the party on the situation. The Sheriff, three guards, Halfred, and Charrone left for the garrison where Zandu and Brother Zantus were waiting there.

Othart explained that there had been two more murders last night: Halfred’s ex-girlfriend Katrine Vindler and her new fiancee Banny Harker. He asked if the remaining party members would join him at the murder scene at the lumber mill.

Declan knocked on McGregor’s and Larissa’s doors. McGregor answered, but Larissa did not. Declan tried the door, and was surprised to find it unlocked. Fearing the worst, he threw open the door to find… a completely empty room. Larissa and all of her belongings were gone, aside from a letter on the desk. It was in Larissa’s hand, and it read:

12 Lamashan
Dear Halfred, Charrone, Ted, McGregor, and Declan:

It has been an honor to adventure with you these past several weeks. However, the road calls to me, and I have decided to head north to seek more adventures on my own. I hope that our paths may cross again!

Your Friend, Larissa

Othart looked at the letter too. “I don’t remember seeing her at all yesterday. Any idea when she left?” No one did. Othart wrote something in a notebook, then led the three adventurers to the Lumber Mill.

View
Death of a Friend
Session 22

Toiday, 11 Lamashan 4707, late night

The adventurers tied up the ruffians they’d captured, retrieved the chest of contraband, and marched them back to the Sandpoint Garrison. Zandu knew all of them— all were connected to the local Sczarni criminal families. On the way, they interrogated their prisoners, who refused to talk at first, but were persuaded by some thinly-veiled threats. They said that they’d been sent by “a friend” to “pick up some merchandise that fell off a wagon.” When pressed, they said their friend was Reggie “Fingers” Brendo— who Zandu also knew as one of the local Sczarni lesser leaders. When asked about a dead dwarf or what had become of Andrezzi Jhorasso, they seemed to have no idea, even under threat.

Wealday, 12 Lamashan 4707, late morning

The adventurers slept in late the next morning. Over an early lunch, Larissa informed the rest of the group that they weren’t on the town guard’s payroll, and that she thought that the town guard would be more than capable of handling this from here. She said she would be returning to her room to continue her magical studies.

Charrone, Declan, Ted, McGregor, and Halfred returned to the Sheriff’s office to discuss next steps. Hemlock thought that looking up “Fingers” Brendo would be a good next step. Ted suggested that they should go straight to the top: to speak with the head of the local Szcarni family, and let him know in no uncertain terms that the tunnels are closed and that we know his people killed the dwarf. Hemlock said that might be a bit rash, and assigned his senior guardsman, Othart Zemka, to give the party a bit more legitimacy (and to steer them away from overly rash action).

Asking around, the party learned that “Fingers” Brendo often could be found at the Feedbag Tavern, so they headed over there to look for him. On the way, Ted asked Othart who the leader of the local Sczarni was, and he replied " Jubryal Vishki. He’s also at the Feedbag more often than not. Vishki is too clever to ever get caught— all the trails usually end with his underlings."

At the Feedbag, the bartender frowned when he saw five adventurers and the highest-ranking member of the town guard walk into his bar. Ted began by asking whether Vishki was in, and if they could see him, which the bartender refused. After several go-rounds about that, the barkeep asked them all to leave, but they refused. At that, most of the patrons in the bar stood up and tried to look menacing. Halfred refused to be menaced, and threw the first punch, and a full-scale barroom brawl broke out. Even the young barmaid got into the act, by hitting McGregor over the head with a tray of ale mugs. Ted was surprisingly effective as a brawler, and Halfred and Charrone managed to punch out several people before the bartender relented and told how to get to Vishki’s office. “Won’t do you any good, though. I haven’t seen him in three days. I bet he went to Magnimar, but he doesn’t tell me when he comes and goes.”

They found Vishki’s office, and found it to be locked from the inside. McGregor used a knock spell to unlock the door, and they were in. The office was well-apportioned, if not tidy. Papers were strewn across a large wooden desk, but Charrone noticed the scent of death in the air. She approached the desk, and was assaulted by a gruesome sight.

The corpse of a man was slumped against the wall, his hand driven into the walls with spikes. The man’s lower jaw, and most of the flesh from his face was removed. His shirt was torn open, and into the flesh of his chest was a familiar symbol: the Sihedron Rune!

Sihedron carved

Disturbingly, McGregor noted that the door had been locked and barred from the inside, as were the windows, and that the room had no other doors. Halfred noticed a folded piece of parchment that was pinned to Vishki’s leg: It read:

Marilictor Charrone Genteur, Order of the Nail (ret.)

My Love,

To prove my undying devotion, I give you this callous lawbreaker. I know that you will love me eternally in return.

Your Lordship

Charrone was perplexed and disturbed by the note, and confirmed that the title was accurate: she had been a Hellknight once, of the Order of the Nail, and that her rank had been Marilictor, but she had resigned and took vows as a paladin shortly thereafter. She said that she knew plenty of nobles in Cheliax, but they wouldn’t use “Your Lordship” to refer to themselves in a letter.

Othart said that he was reasonably sure that the corpse was Vishki, and ran to get the Sheriff. The rest of the party began searching the office. Among the papers on Vishki’s desk, they found a ledger that included listings for “Riddleport Tobacco” and “Daggermark wine,” which the party quickly deduced were referenced to the drug flayleaf and weapon poison, respectively. A different note, dated two days earlier, mentioned that a shipment of Riddleport Tobacco needed to be stopped due to “rats in the sewers,” but he had no way to get a message to a ship at sea. Yet another note, this one dated two weeks ago, refers to the “old cellar” that was “on the bricked-up sewer line” had been cleaned out by “the new exterminators” and could probably be used to store “product.” The note also indicate that his boys would be storing some merchandise there.

By this time, Hemlock, Othart, and Zandu had all arrived. Hemlock and Othart took charge of the scene, and Charrone reported on what the party had found in Vishki’s records, and handed over the note. Hemlock looked at Charrone a bit incredulously, and said, “I didn’t know you were a Hellknight.”

“Was once, but not anymore,” she replied. “I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t know who wrote the note, but it’s obviously someone who’s either known me for a long time or has investigated my past.”

Halfred said that now might be a good time to look for the rest of the contraband in the Catacombs, and Hemlock agreed. Charrone, Ted, McGregor, Halfred, Declan, and Zandu walked over to the Glassworks to enter the tunnels, and Sandi, the guard on duty, let them in.

Following the passageway to the Catacombs, Halfred noticed that there were signs that people had gone this way recently. When they got to the natural chamber before the Catacombs proper, Ted said, “I would guess that the notes from Vishki’s office referred to the actual Thassilonian ruins, not the natural caves. Let’s go straight there.” Halfred said that it would be safer to check the cavern first, so as not to leave possible enemies behind, and went into the cave.

In the back chamber of the cavern, Halfred was shocked to see another body mutilated the same way that Vishki’s had been: slumped against the wall, his hands spiked to the stone wall, jaw and flesh of face removed, and a Sihedron rune carved into the corpse’s chest. Halfred called the rest of the group over. Ted said he’d stay in the corridor as a lookout.

McGregor noticed that the corpse seemed to be wearing clothes very similar to the explorer’s outfit that Ted tended to wear while adventuring, even down to the spell component pouch still belted to the corpse’s side. In fact, the more they examine the corpse, the more they became convinced that it was the body of their friend. Declan found another note pinned to the body:

Charrone Genteur, Hero of Goblin Day

My Love,

I saw how he looked at you and I shall brook no rival. You shall be my eternal companion when you surrender to the Pack.

Your Lordship

Like the note pinned to Vishki, it was written in blood. Declan whispered, “If this is Ted, who’s guarding the passageway? A doppleganger?” Everyone drew their weapons and returned to the cave entrance.

“Nobody coming,” said ‘Ted,’ “did you find the drugs?”

“No, but we did find something interesting. Something that looked for all the world like your corpse.”

“Huh. I wonder why someone would go to all the effort to fake my death? Obviously, it’s some kind of ruse. Anyway, we need to look for Vishki’s contraband before someone else finds it and sells it to children. I’ll scout ahead.” Ted walked very quickly up the passage and turned down the side-tunnel that led to the Catacombs. Charrone followed him, her sword drawn.

While determining whether or not to also follow, the rest of the group heard Charrone cry out in alarm, then shout, “I’m under attack! Ghouls! Some help, please?” The rest of the party turned the corner, and indeed saw that Charrone was fighting a number of ghouls in the passage. In the fringes of their torchlight, they could see Ted farther down the passage, past the ghouls, casting a spell. The spell targeted Charrone, and she felt a brief surge of panic, but quickly suppressed it. “You’ve got to try harder than that, Ted, or whatever your name really is!” She raised her holy symbol, and shouted “By Iomedae the Inheritor, behold the light of justice!” Brilliant rays of light emanated from the symbol, visibly burning the ghouls. Declan raised his symbol and invoked Sarenrae to a similar effect. All of the ghouls shrieked in pain, and two fell. Halfred skewered one with his ranseur, and it also fell. The remaining ghoul tore into Charrone, managing to get past her armor. The paladin briefly felt numb, but recovered immediately.

Zandu sprang forward with a kukri in each hand, and finished off the last ghoul. ‘Ted’ held up a hand glowing with magical energy, and stretched out his arm ten feet to strike Zandu. The energy discharged, and Zandu suddenly felt extremely tired, as if he’d been running at top speed while carrying a heavy load. Charrone invoked Iomedae again, and her sword glowed with holy energy. “In the name of the Inheritor I smite thee!” and she swung at the creature in Ted’s form, striking a mighty blow.

The creature then transformed almost immediately: Ted’s features melted away, and the creature’s head became bald and featureless, save for a disturbing pattern of whorls and ridges on its skin where a face should be. Three pointed tongues protruded from slits in the center of its faceless head. It tried to cast another spell.

Faceless stalker

But Halfred was ready! As soon as the creature attempted to cast the spell, Halfred thrust his ranseur at the creature. Unfortunately for it, the creature misjudged Halfred’s aim and stepped directly into the strike. Halfred impaled the creature straight through the center of its chest, and bright green blood spurted violently onto the walls and floor. The creature collapsed to the floor, gurgling in an unnatural way.

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Smugglers and Cutthroats!
Session 21

Oathday, 06 Lamashan, 4707

The Sandpoint Six were enjoying a leisurely breakfast at the Rusty Dragon Inn. They were somewhat surprised to see six dwarves walk into the barroom and ask for rooms. The dwarves then ordered food and sat at one of the larger tables. McGregor decided to be friendly, and introduced himself. In that all-business dwarven demeanor, the leader said his name was Barwin Ironbeard, of the Ironbeard Mining Company. When asked what they were in town for, Ironbeard explained that they had been hired by the mayor to seal off some unauthorized tunnels that had been discovered under the town, and were being used by undesirable riff-raff. He went on to say that his team would be examining the tunnels and then recommend what should be done about them: possibilities included bringing in a bunch of fill, installing a series of walls or iron gates, or deliberately causing a controlled collapse.

After breakfast, Charrone Genteur and Declan Fintane went over to the Cathedral, to participate in the celebration of Iomedae’s Ascension Day, as it was on this date in 3832, almost nine hundred years ago, that the mortal paladin Iomedae, servant of the living god Aroden, passed the Test of the Starstone in Absalom, and ascended to godhood. Brother Zantus had asked Charrone to lead the service, as she was the highest-ranking divine servant of Iomedae in town.

Starday, 08 Lamashan 4707

Halfred had taken his on-again, off-again girlfriend Katrine Vindler out to lunch at Risa’s Tavern. Katrine was far less talkative than usual, and even the somewhat clueless Halfred noticed. As the meal wound down, he asked, “Um, is there something wrong, Katrine?” She sighed. “Halfred, there isn’t an easy way to say this. I’ve been seeing Banny Harker for a couple of weeks, and we’ve decided to become exclusive. Do you know Banny? He’s the foreman at the lumber mill. He wants me to marry him.” Halfred looked shocked. She continued, “A miller sure isn’t as exciting as an Ulfen warrior, but he’s sweet, he’s got a steady income from the lumber mill, he’s building a beautiful new house, and I’m just not worried that he’s going to get himself killed every time he goes to work. I’m sorry, Halfred.” She got up and left while Halfred sat there silently. When he got up to pay the tab a few moments later, he noticed that several others in the barroom were looking his way, but quickly averted their eyes.

Toilday, 11 Lamashan 4707

After spending the day in their individual pursuits, the Sandpoint Heroes were relaxing at the Dragon a few hours after dinner. Ironbeard walked quickly into the room, followed by Sheriff Hemlock and two of the town guard (Zandu Agavale and Sandi Thelphar). Hemlock approached the party and said, “Mr. Ironbeard tells me that he thinks that there’s been some kind of trouble in the tunnels. One of his miners is missing. You people know those tunnels better than any of my men. Would you mind assisting these guardsmen in searching the tunnels tonight?” “We’d be happy to help,” said Charrone almost immediately, and the rest nodded in agreement. Halfred shot a quizzical look at the dwarf. “We’re engineers, not warriors,” he said, “and we weren’t hired to fight subterranean monsters, if that’s what befell Gorwin.” The party quickly returned to their rooms to don their gear, and met back downstairs in ten minutes.

Hemlock and Ironbeard escorted the party, plus the two guards, to the Glassworks, and the night manager let them in and led them down to the basement to the entrance to the tunnels. Viorek, one of the new guards from Magnimar, was sitting at a desk that had been moved to the access room. The party could see that a good amount of mining equipment had been moved into that room as well. Viorek nodded, then returned to the book he was reading. When they were out of earshot, Sandi and Zandu exchanged knowing glances, and Zandu said, “well, that’s just like Viorek. It’s not like he ever does any actual work. Why did Belor hire him again?”

The Sandpoint Six, plus Ironbeard, Sandi, and Zandu, all walked along the main tunnel. Larissa suggested that they first check out the main tunnel all the way to the secret cave entrance, and if they didn’t find anything, then circle back and check the dead-end side passage, then the passage to the Catacombs. Everyone agreed that was a sound plan. They walked about a quarter-mile, and were getting close to the end of the tunnel, when they made a grisly discovery.

Two bodies lay on the ground. One was a dwarf, who seemed to have died from multiple stab wounds. The other was a human, whose cause of death was obvious, as the business end of a heavy pickaxe was buried into his chest. “By Torag,” said Ironbeard, “that’s Gorwin Goldhelm. I don’t know the human.”

“I do,” said Zandu, “that’s Andrezi Jhorasso. He’s a local thief and smuggler who does a little extortion on the side. He’s bad news, but clever enough not to get caught very often. I thought he’d meet a bad end, but I wouldn’t have bet on a pickaxe to the chest. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen him around town in weeks.”

Halfred examined the ground. “Well,” said Halfred, “the tracks in the dust here would indicate that there was a second human with him. And it looks like that other guy left while dragging something heavy, with a flat bottom, like a chest. And he was bleeding. From the looks of these tracks, two humans carrying something heavy came in from the cave entrance and got this far. There was a scuffle, two guys died, then the remaining one left with the cargo.” A few feet farther down the passage, Halfred found an empty potion bottle; McGregor identified the residual liquid as a healing potion of some sort.

Examining Jhorasso’s body, Larissa found that he lay on top of a bloody dagger, which he apparently had used against the dwarf, but then fell atop. Looking at the dagger, she noticed that the blade was also covered with a sticky greenish-black substance. “Be careful with this,” she said, “it’s poisoned.”

Sandi said that she’d go back for reinforcements, and Ironbeard said that he’d wait vigil over his fallen comrade. The rest of the party, plus Zandu, proceeded down the corridor to the secret entrance inside a cave behind a small, secluded beach northeast of Sandpoint. Halfred looked for tracks in the beach sand. The night was clear, and there was a full moon, bathing everything in clear, dim light. If it weren’t for a murder investigation, the beach would have been a very pleasant place to be.

From the marks in the sand, Halfred deduced that a small boat had been beached here within the past four hours. Two people had gotten out of the boat carrying something heavy between them and entered the cave with it. Then the boat left. At some point after that, a single person came out of the cave dragging a heavy object with a flat bottom— probably a chest. Halfred followed the tracks to a goblin switchback trail that led up the cliff. About halfway up the steep, rocky path, Halfred noticed that the tracks indicated that whoever made them was walking normally, and not dragging anyting. Larissa found a large, heavy chest inexpertly hidden behind some bushes. Picking the lock, she found that the chest contained scores of bundles of dried leaves in one section. In a smaller section of the chest were carefully packed glass vials of a greenish liquid.

Zandu examined the leaves, and broke off a small bit to taste it. " Flayleaf," he said. “This much of the drug would probably fetch about a thousand gold.” Ted cast detect magic, and reported that nothing in the chest appeared to be magical in nature. Larissa took one of the vials and opened it. The liquid appeared to be viscous, and it smelled pungent and fishy. The vapors gave her the slightest of headaches. “I think this stuff is some kind of poison, probably the same kind that was on the dagger.” she said.

“So, what do we do now?” asked Charrone. They decided to conceal the chest where they had found it, and to try to catch the smuggler, who was most likely the one who murdered the dwarf. Halfred and the rest of the party followed the tracks through the woods for about a quarter-mile, to where the path met up with the heavily-traveled Lost Coast Road. Once on the road, Halfred lost the trail, although he suspected that their quarry most likely headed back toward Sandpoint.

The group figured that the smuggler wouldn’t want to abandon a thousand gold worth of contraband, and that either the smuggler or that person’s cronies would be back to claim it, and probably would do so later tonight. The group then hid themselves just off the trail near the chest.

Several hours later, well after midnight, Ted’s pet raven notified him that a group of people were approaching along the trail. Zandu also spotted them using his keen elven night vision, and nocked an arrow. Four black-clad figures approached. Zandu stood, and shouted, “Halt, in the name of the Sandpoint Guard!” One of the figures threw a dagger at him, and Zandu let loose the arrow, which hit the figure squarely in the chest. At that, McGregor cast a spell, and a burst of brightly-glowing dust exploded amidst the figures. The glowing dust clung to their clothing, making them extremely easy to see in the dim light. They then attempted to flee, as Halfred sprung forward and struck one with his ranseur, Larissa let loose a volley of arrows, and Charrone ran at them with her magic sword. McGregor then cast another spell, and conjured a huge, sticky, magical spider web that entangled all of the fleeing ruffians, who finally surrendered.

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