The Watcher of the Mists
Book 2: The Skinsaw Murders
A few weeks after the destruction of the Thistletop goblins, the Sandpoint Heroes noticed that a band of Dwarven miners under the leadership of Barwin Ironbeard had come to town. They learned that Mayor Deverin had hired the dwarves to examine the tunnels below the town and recommend what should be done to secure them. A few days after that, Ironbeard reported that one of his miners had gone missing; a search of the tunnels found the bodies of the missing dwarf and that of a local Sczarni thug. There were also signs that another human had left the fight dragging a heavy chest. The party followed the tracks out of the tunnels to a small secluded beach, where they followed the tracks to a path. There, they found a chest that had been hidden in the brush— it contained a large amount of the illegal drug flayleaf, trade in which was controlled by the local Sczarni family.
The heroes, with the assistance of town guardsman Zandu Agavale, attempted to confront the local Sczarni boss Jubral Vishki, but instead found that he had been ritualistically murdered inside his own office— which was locked from the inside! The flesh of his face had been cut away, his shirt removed, and a Sihedron Rune had been carved into his chest. In his office, they found notes referencing drug smuggling and that he was using the Thassilonian ruins below the city to store shipments.
The heroes returned to the ruins below the town, and were shocked to discover the body of Ted Waters in one room— murdered in the same way as Vishki! They turned their attention to the Ted who had been with them, who ran further into the tunnels. Following, the party was attacked by ghouls, and then by “Ted”— who revealed himself to be a Faceless Stalker! The party killed the stalker and the ghouls, and determined that the real Ted had been dead for about a week. They brought Ted’s body to town curate Brother Zantus, and buried him in the town boneyard.
The next morning, Shariff Hemlock arrested Halfred on suspicion of the murder of his on-again/off-again girlfriend Katrine Vindler at the Sandpoint Lumber Mill. Meanwhile, the rest of the party assembled to investigate the murder on their own. They were also surprised to find that Larissa had checked out of the inn, and had left a note saying that she decided to go adventuring on her own.
At the mill, the party found that Katrine had been thrown into the log splitter, and body of Banny Harker (the man she’d left Halfred for) was mutilated in exactly the same way as Vishki’s and Ted’s. Clues indicated that the murderer may have been some sort of undead creature, probably a ghoul. Hemlock and Halfred then returned, the sheriff being satisfied that Halfred wasn’t involved with the murders. Hemlock then mentioned that his men had just discovered three more bodies that had been slain in the same fashion, and that this time there was a witness: a half-crazed Sczarni thug who was now a patient at an asylum south of town. He sent them, plus Zandu, to go interrogate the witness while he stayed in town to help calm an increasingly nervous populace.
At the asylum, the heroes learned that the witness referred to the murderer as his “master” and "The Skinsaw Man," and that he could be found “at Misgivings.” He also had an advanced case of ghoul fever, (a “gift from Master!”) which Doctor Eric Habe had been failing to treat; Habe was documenting the progress of the disease and planned to let it run its course.
On the return to Sandpoint, the party encountered a farmer who claimed that the farms south of town had become overrun by walking scarecrows that were killing and eating people. The party investigated, and learned that the center of the scarecrow problem was at the Hambley Farm. When they arrived, they found a dwarf ranger named Durrok Wolfhammer fighting off walking scarecrows, and assisted. Joining forces, they destroyed the creatures (actually ghouls), and rescued three farmers that had been infected. They also discovered that the owner of the farm, Mina Harker, had been murdered in the same ritualistic fashion as Ted, Vishki, Harker, and the three others. They also learned that “Misgivings” was a local name for the nearby Foxglove Manor, which was reputed to be haunted. Cementing the connection, one of the ghouls was found with a set of keys with the Foxglove family crest on the fob.
The heroes escorted the ailing farmers back to town for treatment, and then traveled to Foxglove Manor. While exploring the house, they found that it was indeed haunted: they learned that the original builder of the house, Vorel Foxglove, had unsuccessfully attempted to become a lich, and that his evil spirit had suffused the house itself, cursing any who lived there. The curse itself fell hardest on Aldern: He was the Skinsaw Man! He had become a ghoul and had been responsible for the ritual murders. The party confronted him in the crypts below the house, and killed him. With the help of Brother Zantus, they also managed to lift the curse on the building.
From Aldern himself and from information they found in the house, the party learned that the Skinsaw Man had been acting under the orders of an organization called “The Brothers,” and also under those of someone called “My Mistress” or “Wanton of Nature’s Pagan Forms”. Both appeared to reside in Magnimar, and they learned that Aldern had kept a townhouse there. They then deiced to take their investigation to that nearby city. On the way to Magnimar, they encountered and defeated the notorious Bilger Gang of brigands, and captured most of them.
Upon arrival at Magnimar, they handed over their prisoners to the city officials, and testified at a hearing under the presiding Justice Ironbriar. After that, they investigated Aldern Foxglove’s townhouse, finding records indicating the involvement of a mysterious fraternal organization called the Brothers of Seven. They also learned that Magnimar had been seeing a rash of similar murders to the ones Aldern had been committing: and timing was such that Aldern couldn’t have been responsible for all of them! Investigation of the Brothers of Seven revealed that the group operated a sawmill on Kyver’s Islet in town.
On the morning that the party had planned to check out the sawmill, they were summoned to a meeting with Ironbriar. Ostensibly to discuss the case against the Bilger Gang, the meeting took an odd turn when Ironbriar asked the party to help investigate the “Demon-Star Murders” as they were calling them, and he voiced his suspicion that a local demon-worshiping Sczarni gang was behind them. He also made it clear that he knew a great deal about the Sandpoint Heroes, including their movements in Magnimar. After the meeting, they checked out the Sawmill.
After entering the mill on a ruse, the workers at the mill donned scary masks and attacked, revealing themselves to be members of the Skinsaw Cult of Norgorber. After fighting their way to the top floor of the mill, the party had a showdown with the head priest, who revealed himself to be… Justice Ironbriar! The party defeated the cultists, and captured Ironbriar and several lower-ranking cultists. Charrone contacted the Knights of Iomedae to find out who in the Magnimar city government could be trusted, and turned the prisoners over to General Odinburge, commander of the Magnimar elite guard. They also uncovered evidence that the cultists had been at work for more than a century, and were responsible for hundreds of murders in Magnimar. The ritual Sihedron murders, though, were a very recent addition, brought in by a mysterious priestess who’d shown up earlier this year.
That evidence sent the Sandpoint Heroes to an abandoned clock tower in the Underbridge district. Other clues indicated that this priestess might actually be a vampire, who was using the cult to further her own ends. At the tower, the party fought through a golem, vampire spawm, faceless stalkers, and several traps before meeting this priestess on the very roof of the tower. While taunting the party, he called herself “Xanesha,” and revealed herself to be a sorceress of some power as well. After a pitched battle two hundred feet up, the party managed to defeat her and destroy her for good. In her lair, the party found detailed dossiers on themselves, and also a list of potential victims for “Sihedron Sacrifices for the Master”. The list included the names of everyone who had been slain by the ritual— these were crossed out. One name on the list that caught their eye was the Lord-Mayor of Magnimar!
The heroes brought the evidence they’d found to General Odinburge, who assured them that the Lord-Mayor would be informed of their bravery and service to the city. Sure enough, two days later, the party received an invitation to dinner at the Lord-Mayor’s mansion. During a sumptuous dinner, the subject of the list came up, and the party informed the Mayor that he’d been on the hit list. The Mayor’s reaction (fainting) indicated that he hadn’t been informed of that detail. The party was rewarded with a large cash purse, and the enduring thanks of the City of Magnimar.
Of course, one question that wasn’t answered was: Who is Xanesha’s master, and why did he order the ritual Sihedron murders?
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