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