Rise of the Runelords

Assault on Thistletop #2
Can Sandpoint be saved in time?

Kadira, the sole survivor of the attempt to storm Thistletop, has put out a call for bold heroes to aid her in the defense of the poor defenseless town of Sandpoint from an army of goblins. Just a handful responded to her call, and while she was orchestrating the setting of stakes outside the crude northern wall and setting up defensive strategies for the imminent goblin attack. Scouting reports, mainly by a dwarven ranger that has come to help and Shalelu Andosana, the unofficial scout of Sandpoint, the town’s leadership was able to narrow down the window of attack to just a few short weeks from when the previous heroes fell to goblin depredations. So with plans put in place, and preparations nearing completion for Sandpoints defense, Kadira, the dwarven ranger, and a strange gnome knight on a boar set off on a daring plan.

They secured passage by fishing vessel to sail to Thistletop, planning a marine attack on the little island fortress. When they were just in sight of the island, a dark shape struck out for their ship and attacked. The young black dragon by the name of Black Fang had been promised the island as a lair once the current occupants were done with it and he set out to destroy any interlopers. The battle on the deck of the ship was ferocious. Lines of acid streaked across the ship melting flesh and bone, wood and steel. The brave adventurers were barely able to withstand the onslaught, but drove the dragon back to the island by landing some very good blows. Once they were safe from the dragon, a new problem presented itself: the ship was sinking. So with the crew in one dingy, and the heroes in another, they parted ways as the heroes made their way to a small beach on the northern side of the island. As they approached they were rewarded with a strange image, almost as if the entire island were the head of some massive ancient statue tilted on its side.

Upon securing the beach, the heroes found cover and Anthrogate, the dwarven ranger scouted out the island, finding several goblins playing a mean-spirited game of “killgull” with their goblin dogs lounging nearby “guarding” the rope bridge from the mainland. With some clever work (and help from his potion), he sprung the trapped rope bridge unseen and set it crashing to the surf below, skirting away in the goblin’s confusion. Now that the “guards” had been dealt with, it was time to climb the walls of the stockade, made easier by its construction from a haphazard collection of old ship timbers and masts. Avoiding detection by goblin sentries, they found a point of ingress into a open yard within the grounds, but they also found trouble their waiting for them.

The small shed attached to the grounds was clearly the lair of Black Fang (due to the door being melted and such), and it was clear that he was licking his wounds within (due to the acidic vapors rising from said melted opening). There was a reason that Kadira brought the gnome with them, brave or foolhardy, he was always up for a challenge. And challenge he did, the dragon that is, and received a line of acid for his troubles. But what happened next is what these stories are made of. With a valiant battlecry, the gnome, atop his boar, charged into the dragons lair, riding full tilt and landing a prodigious blow upon the foul creature. So put out by this attack, the dragon took wing, knocked the gnome aside in his haste to escape, and suffered parting shots from Anthrogate and Kadira as he fled Thistletop all together.

The threat of the dragon removed, the team of heroes went on to systematically clear out the stockade of goblins, until they found Warchief Ripnugget holding court in his throne room. The battle was intense with Ripnugget riding his giant gecko, making charges across the room. From the ceiling to the walls the goblin fought alongside his loyal retinue of guards and warchanters singing their terrible songs of biting and chewing. The heroes were valiantly successful and raided the goblin’s riches, including a large key that didn’t seem to fit any locks they could find. Perhaps there was some secret treasure room that they still hadn’t located. With the first level cleared, there remained just two ways down, further into the island.

Bravely the heroes descended into rock of the island where surely strange and wonderful sights awaited. They came across a set of little cages filled with dirty straw used for rearing goblin children, a strange otherworldly creature called a tentamort that attacked the group when it was interrupted while it was trying to catch birds with its tentacles, and the bugbear Bruthazmus who had clearly been taking his leisure with a host of goblin wives. The elf Shalelu will surely welcome the news of the demise of her long time nemesis Bruthazmus. Further on they found an empty prison and torture chamber, absent of torturer, as if the creature had recently died in a raid, and finally a set of rooms belonging to some of the goblin’s longshanks allies, including one occupied by a Orik Vancaskerkin, and Tsuto’s no longer needed sleeping chamber, for he sleeps elsewhere forevermore. Further exploration brought the heroes to a dark and mysterious shrine to the Mother of Monsters, Lamashtu. Inside they battled two dark hounds, who’s frightful howls must have alerted the entire place.

We left our heroes in the war room of these goblin nasties, with maps and battleplans drawn up as the battle for Sandpoint is clearly soon at hand, and a barricaded door with a female voice behind denouncing the intruders from the other side. Should our heroes persist, they must find a way past this obstacle to reach the whoever or whatever is pulling the goblins’ stings. Can they stop the invasion of Sandpoint in time?

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Nualia's Fate/A New Threat
One door shuts, and still more evil creeps in.

We pick up with our brave heroes down deep in the dungeon below Thistletop before a barred door and a woman’s voice behind. After a few tense minutes of back and forth, the woman opens the door and reveals herself as a bedraggled elven woman surrounded by various sundries more consistent with an archaeological dig than a dungeon dedicated to evil. The woman introduces herself as She Who Weeps for What Was Lost (SWWWWL), a learned individual about some of the relics uncovered beneath Thistletop and employee of Nualia. Markedly ignoring her as a non-threat, the heroes move down the staircase behind the propped open secret door, further into the island.

Below Anthrogate finds a strange room, canted to the west, as if some ancient event threw this level off center, that bears tipped statues of a man in robes with a book and a glaive that SWWWWL seems very familiar with. The walls bear soot on the lower parts, but the room is otherwise empty. Stealth seems impossible with a boar riding gnome paladin in the group, but efforts are made and the next door reveals a strange hall with a trap. After some work, and no lack of distraction from the milling group of heroes behind, Anthrogate figures out the nature of the devious device which involved two portcullis’, slashing glaive statues, and a dropping floor, then he disarms the thing making it safe to pass.

It is beyond that the heroes find an odd occupant in the next room; old enemy for some, a potential ally for others, dangerous to all. A dapper looking man stands in his small clothes asking a goblin advice, of all things, on a set of robes. In surprise he challenges the intruders and recognizes Kadira as an old associate. This is Rygg, a master manipulator who went missing from the last groups first assault on Thistletop, that all assumed was dead. It turns out that he now seems to have some interest in the imminent goblin attack on Sandpoint. Before Kadira can pierce him with arrows though, he mesmerizes her with a spell and sets about her companions attempting to turn their favor while Killjoy, his loyal goblin servant, and his goblin dog set about to defending their master. The battle is fierce, but eventually the gnome paladin recognizes the threat that the sorcerer is and Kadira finally breaks free from Rygg’s spell to pepper him with arrows while SWWWWL whispers of wrathful tidings in her ear. It is an ignominious end for the seductive sorcerer.

After their ordeal with the traitorous sorcerer, the heroes come to a room that is a sight to behold. An L shaped room that bears an immense stack of golden coins one way, and a pair of double doors bearing skeletons at the other end. After a quick investigation of the coins, and some failed greedy intentions by the dwarf Anthrogate, it is agreed to proceed through the skeletal doors. But as the team moves to the doors, SWWWWL slips a couple coins from her pouch while she examines the door, and places them into two well hidden slots. Instantly transported away, the coins trigger the secret door, and the stack of coins grinds noisily into the ground. With the way apparent, our group of heroes courageously charge through, and stumble into something truly evil.

There before a set of intricate doors kneels a beautiful woman with silvery hair and comely form. Her armor shaped well, covers all but her midriff with dark symbols, and the bastard sword on the ground beside her seems quite deadly indeed. It would seem that our heroes have found Nualia for as she finishes the divine ritual to her patron, the Mother of Monsters, Lamashtu, she raises her arms, one strong and smooth of skin, the other red and angry as if formed from a demon. With a flash of divine light, the doors part from the center and slide silently open. Nualia takes up her sword, and bathed in that same divine light, turns to the heroes.
“Now, at long last, you will know the power of the Mother. You and your town will become burnt offerings unto my rebirth out of this cursed form! Behold the might the Mother has given me!” And with that she wades into battle.

With but two blows, she downs the dwarven ranger; with another parted the head from the boar the gnome was riding; and from there she presses her advantage into the group of heroes that seem powerless to stop her blade from claiming all their lives. But worse is the shadowy shape darkening the open doors. A crushing despair comes over the heroes that only some can resist to fight on. Arrows, axe, lance, and spell all brought to bear upon the priestess, and only just were the heroes able to defeat their foe. The dark essence retreats behind the closing doors as Nualia’s soul was claimed by divine flames, leaving not but her worldly possessions clattering to the ground including her Sihedron Medallion.

With the will and heart of the attack on Sandpoint removed, all that remains is to remove the teeth from the slathering monster that is a goblin army. Showing proof to the gathered goblin chieftains, and a few threatening arrows and bolts, the goblin army disbanded into the surrounding hinterlands. It would be some time before another would be able to gather them in such numbers as to threaten Sandpoint again.

So after some much earned rest, a shopping trip to Maginmar (which also yielded an invitation from Sheila Heidmarch of the Pathfinder Society), and a good deal of adulation from the townsfolk of Sandpoint, all seemed well with our heroes. That is until rumors of ghouls found their ears and once more our heroes sallied forth to combat this new evil. And ghouls they found, in a plenty, beneath the Pauper’s Graves, many bearing an interesting mark, a seven pointed star, one the heroes have seen before in the Thassilonian ruins they had recently been exploring. But the horror of this new evil wasn’t truly revealed until they returned to Sandpoint.

Sheriff Hemlock summoned the heroes to ask for their help for it would seem that there is a murderer on the loose, and he struck just last night at the mill leaving a chilling note for Kadira. Further more, this seems not to be the first instance, for three nights ago three con men were found brutally murdered as well. It turns out the bodies were only found because of a raving man accosting some of the Sheriffs men on patrol. While the raving man, one Grayst Seville was remanded to Habe’s Sanatorium, the scene of the murders was singular in nature since each of the three bodies had a seven pointed star carved into their chests.

So our heroes set out to investigate the murder scene at the mill and found several clues therein:
-Muddy bare footprints leading from the river up the pier and into the mill
-Poor Katrine Vinder violently and viciously murdered with the log splitter
-A suspicious bloody ax embedded in the floor near the log splitter smelling of rotten meat
-Banny Harker’s body suspended by hooks, seven pointed star carved into his chest, face removed as well as his lower jaw

Several leads remain that Sheriff Hemlock would like help following up on:
-Ibor Thorn, the co-owner of the mill who found the murder scene is in a holding cell
-Ven Vinder, Katrine’s father is being held as the Sheriff’s only suspect as of now
-Grayst Seville who was sent to Habe’s Sanatorium located on the leeward side of the Ashen Rise
-The prominence of the seven pointed star rune and its ultimate meaning here

A murder mystery is afoot. Can the heroes work through the clues to find who is responsible before they strike again?

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Murder and Misgivings
Can our heroes solve the gruesome murders plaguing Sandpoint?

Faced with several avenues of investigation, our heroes set out to try to piece together what might have transpired within the lumber mill the night before. Their first stop is to the holding cells of the Sandpoint Garrison where Sheriff Hemlock is holding his only two suspects, Ibor Thorn and Ven Vinder. Kadira orchestrates the questioning with the help of a strong intimidating presence in the form of a surly dwarf, and yields no new insights, which isn’t to say the two men in custody aren’t hiding anything. At last some judicious use of “Goggles of Detecting Bad Guys” from Tobias convinces the group that there is nothing more to be gained from the two men who seem to be innocent of this particular crime.

Next on the list of leads takes our heroes to the Habe’s Sanatorium, a dark and dismal place of questionable intentions and methods. The operator is Erin Habe, a skittish man who was not happy to receive visitors of any kind when our heroes arrived. With some persuasion, Habe agreed to facilitate a meeting with his newest patient, a demented and diseased man named Grayst, the sole survivor of the first set of gruesome murders featuring a seven pointed star carved into the victims chests. Making their way through the creepy building, our heroes cannot help but be disturbed by what they see, hear, and smell. The place is not very well kept, nor is it very often used as evidenced by the layers of dust and grime on tables and chairs throughout. When at last Habe leads our heroes to a secure room, he brings in a what can only be called a man in the loosest of terms, secured in a straight-jacket. The “man”, Grayst, seems feverish and disturbed until he recognizes Kadira and speaks of his master, this visit, the high place his master has for her, and how when she goes to his Misgivings she will join his pack. At the end of his speech, the restrained man attacks in a violent outburst which the heroes quickly defuse. With the patient returned to his cell, Habe quickly ushers the heroes out, but not before offering to care for SWWWWL as she exhibits several symptoms of psychosis.

Armed with this new information, and the day getting late, the group (all but SWWWWL) decides to seek refuge from the road upon a local farm. The family, while brave, seems troubled by rumors or walking scarecrows they’ve heard coming from the southern farmsteads. Though troubled, our stalwart adventurers hole up for the night. Meanwhile, SWWWWL travels back to Sandpoint where she communes with her patron about the information they learned in the Sanatorium. She is rewarded with the knowledge of the Misgivings as a local name for an estate not far to the south of Sandpoint belonging to local nobility by the name of Foxglove. Spurred by this new knowledge SWWWWL makes the trek in the morning to Foxglove Manor and finds the decrepit and derelict building very foreboding and locked. For the next day and a half she will struggle with her own feelings of misgivings and the strange lights and auras that seem to emanate from the building. Away to the east, her companions awake to a strange cry for help.

An old man, exhausted as if he had been running the whole night, collapses on the walk to the farmhouse the heroes had retired to. After checking to make sure he was alright, the heroes attempt to make sense of this poor man staggering through the farmsteads all night, but the only thing they can get out of him is walking scarecrows, and the old Hambley Place, belonging to a penny-pinching miser known to all the locals. Rushing to investigate, our heroes soon find themselves traipsing through tall corn fields along narrows walks, scarecrows tall among the stalks. When they come close to one, it moves struggling to break free of its bonds, tearing its ghoulish flesh in the process. Clearly there is something not right here. It isn’t until they reach they farmhouse and barn that the heroes truly learn the extent of the situation as they are attacked on all sides by ghouls coming out the corn. A swift fight ensues with the undead on the losing side, hacked by axe and blade, slashed by claw and tusk, and pierced by arrow and lance. After, while searching the farmhouse, the heroes find the final clues to the source of the Sandpoint murders: Hambley, murdered like Banny Harker at the mill, and the highwaymen some nights before, with a seven pointed star carved into his chest; a stout wooden coffer under the floorboards with more coin than a farmer should have; and a iron key around the neck of one of the ghouls bearing the heraldic crest of the Foxglove family.

With all the pieces in place, our heroes meet outside Foxglove Manor, nick-named the Misgivings for both the foul deeds said to be committed there, and the restless dead which call the place home. It is with much foreboding the group enters the front doors of the haunted mansion, which the iron key unlocks.

It is here, in the entrance hall, that the house begins its assault on our heroes, as faint sobs can be heard from further upstairs and then sudden and utter quiet. A stuffed manticore decorates the room along with the swift smell of burning flesh and hair. Further in a spiraling stain of mold upon the floor ominously resembling stairs, blocks the way to the dining room which bears splendid stained glass windows of four long lived creatures; a treant, a roc, a sphinx, and a kraken. In a side room, a haunted piano plays while Anthrogate is taken up by song and dances with a beautiful ghostly woman who ages and decays before his eyes and steals some of his life in the process. A tub containing a trapped diseased rat frightens Tobias out of the wash room, while Anthrogate again is taken by a sudden urge, but this time its that of a woman’s urge to gather her child and escape this cursed house. The library is a strange scene with two chairs, one overturned, a red scarf draped over the other one, and bookend tossed carelessly in the fireplace. Only after some investigation do we find the bookend of a praying angel with butterfly wings broken and splattered with dried blood, but also that the scarf has a mind of its own and it attacks Anthrogate attempting to strangle him. Upon braving the first floor, our heroes make their way to the entrance hall and the stairs up when they are beset upon by the stuffed manticore now burning and alive for just a short while. It is with a heightened sense of the macabre that they make their way to the second floor.

The faint sobbing of a woman passes the ear as the heroes search the bedrooms of the second floor. Sagging roofs and moldy coverings draped over rotting furniture decorate the rooms of what once belonged to children. An expansive room that would give a commanding view of the Varisian Gulf is instead blocked by more expertly crafted stained glass windows bearing images of the classic necromatic spell components of scorpion’s venom, vampire’s breath, tongues of deathwing moths, belladonna, and the heart of a maiden slain by poison. While SWWWWL studies these windows, the others move on to the master bedroom torn to pieces, bed smashed, mattress ripped, and walls gouged as if by a knife. It is at the same time that SWWWWL moves into the portrait gallery where images of the previous tenants of Foxglove Manor hang upon the walls. Clearing them to get a good look at each individual, SWWWWL suddenly feels the temperature drop, fingers of rime crawl across the walls, and images turn from those of the living, to those of the dead. A girl and her mother collapse into tumor ridden corpses, a man grows pale with a long cut at his throat blood washing down his chest, a woman chars and blackens with her arms and legs broken as if from a fall, Aldern Foxglove’s image shows his flesh rot and turn to a ghoulish figure, and one marked Vorel explodes into fungus and tumorous growth. Now it is about this time that Kadira is overcome with a misogynistic rage, as if a woman were the cause of all her problems and she sets out to find and murder the first woman she can find. SWWWWL begins to see tiny splotches of mold and tender red bumps on her skin as the room turns back to normal, and stands there stunned by the powerful haunt. Kadira, despite the pleas of her compatriots rounds the corner of the gallery, draws an arrow, knocks, pulls back and lets loose an arrow into the back of the head of the closest woman she could find. SWWWWL drops dead instantly.

As she comes out of the rage filled stupor, Kadira finally understands what this house is capable of. Death saturates it, fills it with malice, and the poor souls that tried to live here had no chance at a normal life. Beyond the gallery is another bedroom otherwise untouched by decay and mold except the desk which bears a dark stain. Tobias when looking at the desk is overwhelmed with despair, as if he had murdered of the only person he ever loved. He moves over to the desk and pulls out what looks like to him a silver dagger, intent on ending his own life. When his companions try to stop themselves from losing yet another party member, Tobias lashes out with the “dagger” and then it becomes a long piece of splintered wood embedded in the chest of Anthrogate. Truly understanding the dangers present, the heroes believe that the time for exploration is over, as the house is becoming increasingly murderous.

They make haste to the attic level where they all can hear the sobbing woman. It seems to be coming from a room further down the hall. When they force the door open inside they find a sobbing woman held in thrall by her undead image in the mirror. The woman is Iesha Foxglove, murdered wife to Aldern Foxglove, the source of the ghoulish murders plaguing Sandpoint. Freeing her from the mirror’s grasp, Iesha lets out a baleful shriek and screams “Aldern, I can smell your fear! You’ll be in my arms soon!” And with that she moves swiftly from the room, down the stairs to the first floor, and makes her way to the moldy spiral stain on the floor where she begins to rip up floorboards, tearing and clawing at the floor. She steps back revealing a basement room that indeed has a spiral staircase leading further below the house. With a strange look she heedlessly jumps down into the dark and flees down the stairs.

Do our heroes dare follow? What dark and sinister dangers await them deep beneath this haunted house?

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60 Miles to Magnimar
The game is afoot in Magnimar

The heroes three stand peering down into the deep, dark, winding stone stair of some ancient construction. We find them torn between following the revenant Iesha Foxglove to whatever doom she might encounter, and finishing the exploration of Foxglove Manor above. The choice seems clear as the house has become increasingly deadly, our heroes get the uneasy feeling of a some malevolent entity that does not want them here. Armed with the knowledge of Aldern Foxglove, the foppish noble Kadira had met before now turned to some kind of ghoulish figure, as the perpetrator of the horrific murders in Sandpoint and its hinterlands, the heroes bravely delve the depths beneath this haunted mansion.

The stone stairs end in a massive cave structure, some parts newly expanded, others made habitable long ago. Anthrogate bends his knees to follow the tracks of Aldern’s undead wife, and leads the group further into the dark and dank caves. Guided only by his darkvision he comes across a pack of ghouls hidden in alcoves along the walls. The fight turns to nightmare as Anthrogate and his companion are surrounded by the lathering jaws and diseased claws of the undead. Charging to the rescue Kadira drills the first ghoul with a well placed arrow, and the cat savages another, while a shining beacon of a gnome rides past the foray and sets up a charge. But there are just to many and before the rest of the ghouls can be put down, several scratches, bites, and wounds dot Anthrogates arms.

Further on, goblins! Yet these are already dead; wide heads with too sharp teeth and long dripping tongues, a sickening gray pallor to their already green skin. These vicious creatures must have been caught and turned by Aldern and set as guards, for as they move quietly in the darkness, they pounce upon Anthrogate and his companion, paralyzing and sickening the two. Again the gnome and archer have to rush to their aid showering the nasty little creatures with arrows and impaling them with tusks. Sickened as they are, the group continues; there is only one way to end this murderous rampage – to kill or be killed.

A dark winding slope ends at a pool of foamy seawater, the currents of the ocean causing it to ebb and froth, and making the slope dangerous to traverse. A door in the wall, about half way down, is smashed apart, the inside of the room pouring out soft candle light from within. Our heroes make their precarious way to the door and peek inside to find an unexpected sight. There upon his knees, the ghoulish Aldern Foxglove sits weeping over the twice dead corpse of his once beautiful wife Iesha. Looking up with grief stricken eyes he screams, “You did this? YOU did this! How dare you make me face this again? I shall taste your warm hearts..” and with that he attacks.

With the first blow, an arrow in his shoulder, the creature shifts and cringes away. “Please don’t do it, don’t hurt me. He will come and then you will all be sorry. He made me do it. The Brotherhood, they wanted it so I gave it to them. I had to, I’m so sorry. What else could I do? Don’t do it or the hurter will come, the Skinsaw Man, and then we are all dead.” With that the ghoulish noble visibly changes, his face twisting into a gruesome grin and in a deep malicious voice he calls out, “I wonder how your deaths will affect your friends? What things you might have done that will go unfinished? What will those broken promises spawn? How will your murders shape the world?” With a final roar Aldern Foxglove takes his war razor to hand and charges into battle. It is thus that our heroes finally put to rest the depraved soul of this once proud noble.

Yet quelling the undead threat beneath the haunted mansion did not relieve the dismal burden of tragedy and loss so pervasive within the building, and our heroes, without the means to overcome the dark forces at play, retreat to the safety of Sandpoint, but not before they secure several leads into why these vicious murders took place. A letter from a mysterious source named Xanesha was discovered among Aldern’s belongings spoke of something called a Sihedron Ritual, an organization called the Brotherhood, and the existence of a townhouse in Magnimar that might hold more clues. Also among his belongings was a key ring with two keys, a tarnished iron key, and a bronze key with head of a lion.

All signs pointing to Magnimar, our heroes make the 60 mile trek to the largest settlement on the Lost Coast after securing aid from Sheriff Hemlock and Father Zantus to look over the haunted Foxglove Manor. Once they arrived, our heroes set about several tasks. First Kadira follows up on an invitation to meet with Sheila Heidmarch, a local Pathfinder Venture-Captain, where she runs into the famous Pathfinder Koriah Azmeren and receives a dismissive glare. While Kadira visits Heidmarch Manor and secures a dinner invitation for that evening, Anthrogate and Tobias make their way to the Avensoar, the garrison for the city watch, to investigate rumors of murders in the city where the tired looking guards greet them with cold stares and instructions to see a Justice Ironbriar of the Justice Court. So, feeling run around, our two heroes wade into the red tape of the bureaucracy of Magnimar, cracking a few heads along the way, attempting to gain audience with the Justice to no avail.

Once the heroes are back together, they compare notes and set about their third task of finding a suitable traveling companion. So they find themselves witness to an underground prize fight between a massive Shoanti and an intimidating Ulfen warrior with an iron mask. Though the Shoanti looks more fearsome, the Ulfen handles him easily and playing to the crowd, shortly ends the match. It looks like maybe our heroes have found their counterpart.

The following morning is a new day in Magnimar that sees our heroes summoned to Justice Ironbriar’s chambers for a short interview from the stern looking elf and instructions to meet with a City-Watchwoman by the name of Kasadei. Meeting this shrewd yet exuberant city guard, the heroes are asked to help solve and put an end to another set of murders here in Magnimar seemingly targeting followers of Sarenrae and cutting out their hearts. Kasadei asks them to meet her at midnight to discuss the nature of the ambush so that they might catch this killer promising a 3000 gp reward for their help.

While waiting for the appointed time, our heroes catch wind of the prize fighter they witnessed yesterday being involved in an epic match with a legendary creature, a Shriezyx. Placing hefty bets on the Ulfen warrior, the heroes take their spots to watch the exciting match between man and monster. The battle is fierce; the huge spider-like creature slinging webs to ensnare its foe brings all its nasty claws to bear on the held warrior, but the Ulfen lands some telling blows of his own. The fight rages on stroke for stroke until the Shriezyx seems defeated and the warrior begins to gloat. But then it rises up and begins the fight anew, striking down the man in the iron mask and trying to climb out the top of the arena. With a howl to the northern gods, the man makes a staggering leap off the side of the cage, floating through the air as if his full-plate had wings, and lands an incredible blow with his warhammer to finally end the monster.

Full of pride at his success, and venom for that matter, the Ulfen and our heroes make their way to collect their prodigious winnings only to find the Sczarni thugs that had set up this fight, have absconded with all the coin. Will our heroes team up with this towering warrior to secure their winnings? Can he be trusted to help catch a murderer at dawn? And who is it that was pulling Aldern Foxgloves strings and what do they have planned here in Magnimar?

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Some Eventful Nights
With so many leads to follow-up on, how can you choose just one

Enraged that their winnings are not readily available, and watching the assembled crowd scatter like roaches, our heroes find themselves without money, but with plenty to do in Magnimar. Several items need some looking into and there is a meeting at midnight with Kasadei, a city guardswoman who has asked for the heroes help in catching a murderer.

When they meet up with Kasadei at midnight near the Shadow, she explains the situation and gives all the details she has gathered so far. The killer seems to strike at dawn against priests of Sarerae who commune with the Sun goddess during their morning Dawnwalks. Her plan is to set up an ambush with a decoy and the heroes hiding to swoop in and capture this vicious criminal who has been ripping out the hearts of their victims. After a small amount of convincing, Tobias is chosen as the most priestly of the group to be the decoy and sets his path at dawn down a deserted street in Underbridge. With everybody in place and several squads of guards a couple blocks away ready to charge in and capture the murderer, everything is set and Tobias makes his stroll down the way.

Suddenly the gnomes footsteps fall silent, but everyone can see him walking with a black shadow trailing after him. With a gleam of dagger and flick of a wrist, a wicked arm shoots a dangerous blade toward the gnomes heart over his shoulder, but doesn’t bite. Something is off here, an easy target has just become harder than it should be. Looking around the red haired half-elf sees the trap being sprung as arrows rain down on her from above, and a monster of a man with an iron face rises from a drunken stupor in the alley threatening with a menacing hammer. The murderer tries to get away yelling and screaming but no sound can be heard until just as suddenly as the sound disappeared, it cracks through the dawn, screams for the Scarlet Son to help her. With that, what looks like a particularly graphic decoration on the building comes to life and spreads its broad bat-like red wings and takes flight.

This new threat flies over the rooftops and savagely slashes at Kadira, effectively taking away the groups ranged support, while the red-haired murderer races around a corner trying to escape the trap, but she runs into splinters of wood and the massive barbarian Hjalmar crashing through the fence to cut her off. The battle enjoined, this murderous wretch decides she is mightily out classed and tries to make a run for it, dodging a lance from the now mounted gnome, and a hammer blow from the barbarian, which only serves to deliver more destruction on the already ruined fence, she squirts away and around the corner. But she is not out of the woods yet, for racing among the rooftops, Anthrogate and Taalkan see the fleeing culprit and pounce from on high cutting off her escape. As more screams of aid pierce the morning air, the Scarlet Son, a hideous red tinted fiendish gargoyle, disengages Kadira and makes a swooping dive to catch its partner and make good their escape, but the valiant efforts of the heroes keep the murderer on the ground while the gargoyle makes its escape, but not before Anthrogate sinks a bolt into its flank as it flies off.

Without a second thought, Tobias kicks his boar into gear and charges off after the fleeing gargoyle. Keeping sight of the beast just above the rooftops, he twists down one alley, knocks over some refuse as he and his boar and Taalkan rush down a street keeping up with the monster. After a harrowing ride up and down the streets of Underbridge, waking no small amount of good folk, the gnome comes to an old abandoned shrine. Decrepit and dilapidated the monster surely swooped in through the many holes in the buildings roof and the residual of its evil marks this as the spot. The gnome charges the door with lance lowered and blasts though sending timbers and shards of wood in all directions, and there the gargoyle perches, licking its wounds upon the broken alter attended by some foul undead. A charge finds the wight spitted upon the gnomes lance, and a second smites the fiendish gargoyle. All enemies at his feet, the gnome stares about in wonder at this glorious moment, with the only witnesses to his greatness his boar, and Anthrogates leopard companion.

The woman called Zadendi is the one responsible for the murders of the Sarenites, and once she is handed over to the Avensoar, our heroes can now focus on finding out what happened to the money they bet on Hjalmar the previous night. To that end the heroes track down Hjalmar’s agent and press him for answers. When he tries to escape, a boot through the door and quick thinking stop the scared man from fleeing for his life. In short order he offers to set up a meeting with the leader of the largest local Sczarni gang called the Gallowed, a man named Jaster Frallino, whom he had been working for setting up the illegal underground fights. Surely he would be able to make reparations for our heroes.

Now with a path to get what they are owed, our heroes make their way to the townhouse once owned by Aldern Foxglove in search of clues to further their investigation in the Sandpoint murders. Searching the grounds, and going room to room, the heroes find the building boarded up, secured, and abandoned, until they reach the second floor. Peeking into what would be the dining room, Anthrogate finds Aldern and his wife Iesha enjoying a fine meal, shocked to see intruders. Put off by this turn of events, Anthrogate closes the door and backs away, thinking this some trick of the mind or haunt like he found several times in the haunted Foxglove Manor. Kadira, feeling brave, stuck her head in and nearly got it taken off by the two faceless stalkers who had been adopting the Foxgloves, but now reverted to their natural hideous forms. A short battle and then a more thorough search of the townhouse later, our heroes find the hidden lock inside the lions head mantle piece and discover the last of the Foxglove secrets.

Due to journals and the deed to Foxglove Manor, it would seem that an organization called the Brothers of Seven had been the money behind the construction of Foxglove Manor, and the recipients of 200gp every week for Iesha’s “trip” on Oathday at a place called the Sevens Sawmill at Midnight. Being as it was Oathday, and closing in on Midnight, the heroes made haste to the Sawmill located over on the Yondabakari river.

The place seemed abandoned when the heroes made their way in, with nothing but the machinery whirling away in the darkness. Each level of the 4 story building showed more of the typical use of a sawmill; buckets for cut lumber, saws, and work tables with plenty of sawdust and shavings to go around, the smell of fresh cut lumber heavy in the air. Ever so silently Anthrogate explored the upper stories while the more armored of the party waited for some sign of life within the dark building. It wasn’t until Anthrogate found a terrifying scene, one where 2 dozen cultist around a bound man splayed out on one of the many work tables. An all too familiar scene except he had only seen the aftermath of one of these sacrifices. Standing over the man was the cult leader, dressed in decadent robes, and a gruesome mask made of human skin, carving a seven point star into the dying mans chest. Charging into the fray with a battle cry, the melee was soon joined by the others where cultist after cultist was mowed down by arrow, lance, hammer and axe, tooth and claw, until all that was left was the cults leader. It would turn out that it was Justice Ironbriar, a respected elven judge whom the heroes had run into before, and his affiliation with this foul ritual would begin to make waves in Magnimar. Peppered with arrows, the man finally succumbed to his wounds and ceased the fight.

Searching the cults hideout produced more questions than answers, some loot procured from previous victims, and several rare treasures in the form of books and ledgers. So, lacking the magical means to question the Justice or decipher the ledgers, our heroes turned him over to the Avensoar, the second murderer they had caught in 24hrs. What secrets might this man spill after some hard questioning, and who pulls this puppets strings?

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Magnimarian Heroes
Now that "Justice" is done, Magnimar is finally safe
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