Rise of the Runelords

Swallowtail Festival
And so it begins...

It’s been several years since the construction of Sandpoint’s new cathedral began, but work is finally complete.

“This is an occasion for joyous celebration,” mayor Kendra Deverin said, welcoming all to bask in the wonder of the project’s completion.

The celebration a welcome distraction from their day-to-day schemes, our adventurers partook in games to prove their strength, aim, and agility. Krac Kazul and Bahram engaged in the most grueling game of tug-o-war known to Sandpoint, and despite Krac’s slight win, the feat of strength left everyone present impressed.

Diminutive Rickben Shortcloak’s talent with a bow quickly became apparent to the bystanders as well; he had no trouble defeating his challengers throughout the day.Seris Irene’s elusiveness proved an asset in games of hide and seek, which she easily won. Not even Rickben could hide as easily as her, as onlookers struggled to notice the two darting in and out of the shadows.

Lor busied herself with buying ale and observing as kindred spirits seemed to enjoy themselves around the festival. The White Deer, Rusty Dragon and Hagfish all catered the event free of charge, happy for the free marketing.

Father Zantus took the opportunity to describe the wonders of Desna’s grace, and unleashed a wondrous storm of butterflies upon the festival, much to the delight of the children.

He took to the stage later that afternoon as the sun began to set, and raps a thunderstone against his podium to attract the attention of the reveling guests.

Shrieks began to pierce the air, and a panic consumed the crowd. A faint song grew closer, rising in intensity:

Goblins chew and goblins bite,
Goblins cut and goblins fight.
Stab the dog and cut the horse,
Goblins eat and take by force!
__
Goblins race and goblins jump,
Goblins slash and goblins bump.
Burn the skin and mash the head,
Goblins here and you be dead!
__
Chase the baby, catch the pup.
Bonk the head to shut it up.
Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed,
We be goblins! You be food!

The group rallied, drew their weapons, and met the goblins in the city square head on, easily dispatching them as they scrabbled for food and other trinkets amidst the chaos.

The frenzied fighting shifted north as the battle raged, where the group managed to spot Aldern Foxglove in need of assistance. With surprise on their side, they had no difficulty dispatching the rest of the goblins, at which point Aldern profusely thanked Bahram for their willingness to save him, and their battle prowess.

Quick to turn the situation to her favor, Seris moved in to rob the recovering noble of his riches, but his keen eye caught her movements, and he swatted her away, livid at her sudden betrayal. Annoyed, he instructed the characters to meet him at the Rusty Dragon, where he was currently staying in his visit to Sandpoint.

On the walk back into town folks waved excitedly at the new town heroes. Ameiko Kaijitsu approached them, eager to offer the heroes a free room at her inn, and a delicious meal.

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The Plot Thickens to Glass

After beating back the invading goblins, the group gathered at the Rusty Dragon to recuperate and gather their thoughts. Upon awakening the following morning, Ameiko offered the companions a hearty breakfast as a gesture of thanks, and they were approached that morning by Sheriff Hemlock.

It was important, he explained, that they follow him to the graveyard. Something had happened during the raid and he needed their expertise in getting to the bottom of it. A bit reluctant, they followed him to the Sandpoint Boneyard, adjacent to the new cathedral. Inside the mausoleum at the top of the hill, Sheriff Hemlock showed them inside, at which point they found a group of animate skeletons with unknown origins. They dispatched them, and upon searching the tomb, realized the disturbed remains of Ezakien Tobyn were now missing. Sheriff Hemlock noted that the entire raid, given this evidence, could have been aimed at stealing Father Tobyn’s remains.

Perplexed, they returned to the Rusty Dragon, and there, met with Aldern Foxglove. He invited them along to hunt a great boar in the Tickwood Forest. To facilitate their easy travel, he rented horses for the whole group and brought along his three manservants. During the journey, he went on at length about how much he longed to be a hero. His gaze and attentions lingered on Lor—perhaps too long, but he quickly redirected his focus upon the task at hand. Rickben had little trouble tracking down the boar, and with Bahram’s greatsword, they had little trouble felling it.

They returned to the Rusty Dragon once more with the slain boar in hand. Ameiko accepted the fresh meat, and set to making a stew with aplomb. The celebratory meal was interrupted by an angry man, who entered the tavern raging in Minkaian. He looked about, demanding to know where his daughter was. He took the opportunity to declare them reckless, and claimed their resistance against the goblins only endangered the town. Ameiko walked out and was verbally accosted by her father, who laid into her in a language the group couldn’t understand. Unsatisfied with her answers, he grabbed at her hair and attempted to drag her out of the tavern. She dodged adroitly and smashed him in the face with her ladle. Ashamed and cowed, he left the tavern.

The evening passed without event.

The following morning, the characters awake to the sound of knocks on Rickben’s door. A frightened halfling woman, Bethana, entered and pleaded with Rickben to help. She explained that Ameiko was suddenly gone, and that she never left; she loved her job. Concerned, she handed them a note written in Minkaian. She had been learning the language, so she translated it for the characters, and informed them it was what troubled her. Ameiko’s brother Tsuto had invited her to meet him at the Sandpoint Glassworks. They immediately set out to investigate.

All the doors of the Glassworks were locked. They circled the building to determine an alternate point of entry. Seris and Rickben climbed the building to look down on the scene through sunlights. The scene below them was chilling—Lonjiku Kaijitsu lay there encased in a sheet on thin glass, presumably dead. Bahram and Krac, attempting to get in separate of the others, took to bludgeoning down the door.

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The Glass Shatters

Krac and Bahram broke through the front door of the display room, as they struggled to get in to find Ameiko. Rickben and Seris spied on the goblins through the glass skylights, trying to time their entry with their friends. The constant hum of the machinery interfered with any attempts at spying.

Krac and Bahram opened the door into the main glassworks, and were instantly met with a violent caricature. Eight goblins busied themselves within the room, waving about dismembered limbs coated in glass. Lonjiku Kaijitsu’s body sat upright in the center of the room, covered in glass—the shock a clear cause of his death. The goblins advanced on the group. Through the skylight, Rickben and Seris readied themselves to break the glass. Seris attempted, but Rickben proved the stronger sword arm, and brought his greatsword down upon the glass. It shattered in, and Seris wasted no time throwing down a rope and swinging in to action.

The goblins lobbed glassware, grabbed at the heroes with molten tongs, and raked them with dogslicers. As the fight dragged on, they managed to slay several of the goblins. The remaining goblins, not too keen on dying, fled downstairs. After recuperating for a moment, the group inspected the first floor, and realized the staff had been accosted in their sleep. Blood spattered the walls and beds of the employees’ quarters. They proceeded downstairs.

Seris rounded the corner stealthily, but found herself in the cross hairs of Tsuto Kaijitsu. She dropped after taking an arrow to the torso, but her friends quickly moved to action. After some fighting, Krac fell as well. Lor, Rickben, and Bahram led the fight against Tsuto and his goblin lackeys. After struggling to penetrate his defenses, they finally managed to best him. In his moment of vulnerability, Bahram stepped in and decapitated him—unwilling to give him a second chance.

With the threat removed, they found Ameiko unconscious in a storeroom, and read through Tsuto‘s journal to find clues as to his motivations. What they uncovered was disturbing. It seemed that he was behind the attack on Sandpoint. More disturbing, it seemed there could be additional attacks as the troops were rallied. Tsuto’s love, Nualia seemed involved in some way as well.

The heroes were too disturbed to sit on the news. They had to tell Shalelu Andosana and Father Abstalar Zantus, as the sheriff was out of town. After securing the site, Rickben and Lor traveled out to both the Sandpoint Cathderal and the Rusty Dragon to gather their new-found friends. They returned to the Glassworks, where Father Zantus healed the injured, and listened carefully to the heroes’ tales. They had located journal pages, which seemed to imply further raids, and a grander scheme. Father Zantus noted that the drawings in Tsuto’s hournal appeared very similar to Nualia—the daughter of Ezakien Tobyn who was presumed dead in the immolation of the former Sandpoint Chapel.

Bahram hoisted Tsuto‘s body to take it back to the Sandpoint Boneyard. Upon leaving, they were approached by a frantic Amele Barett—her husband Alergast caught up in a struggle with an errant goblin in their basement. The heroes arrived to a grim sight: Alergast lay upon the ground with his face torn apart and his throat cut. He’d tried to follow the goblin into the crawlspace below the floor. Frenzied and hungry, the small goblin set into the protective father, and they dispatched the vile creature quickly. Amele Barett was devastated, and Lor and Seris calmed her, and gathered her things to deliver her into the hands of the Sandpoint cathedral.

Preparing to delve into the smugglers’ tunnel beneath the Glassworks, the group returned to the Rusty Dragon to recuperate.

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Who smuggled this?!

The group (sans Krac Kazul, who was back at the Rusty Dragon suffering from food poisoning) returned to the site of the purported smuggler’s tunnel in the basement of the Glassworks, and followed the path down—only to find that it ended after 1,500 feet. With a bit of inspection, they found that the wall revealed a secret door, and opened up into a large cavern filled with pallets and knick knacks. No immediate danger threatened, so they walked about the cavern and discovered a beach that looked out a cliff face into the ocean, and in the other direction, a tunnel entrance with bricks laying about the mouth.

Perplexed, the group decided upon this more mysterious route, and as they progressed, they found themselves in a tunnel dug out that intersected with an old underground complex. Their first encounter with the denizens of the caverns found them up against a sinspawn—a being created of pure sin. In the course of the melee, the creature bit Seris, and her mind was immediately overcome with wrathful, murderous thoughts. For several moments she could think only of killing Bahram. Sickened, she slumped against the wall as her friends dispatched the creature. After a brief respite, they continued forward through a narrow stone hallway, and found themselves before a statue of a woman holding a beautifully crafted ranseur. After combing through her knowledge and pondering for a minute, Lor recognized the woman as the Runelord Alaznist—an ancient being of immense power. Seris pocketed her weapon, handed it to Bahram to carry, and then continued north.

Through the next door, they found two more sinspawn bickering with one another in a foreign tongue. The room appeared to be an ancient prison of some sort, but before they could explore, the beings turned and attacked. While not easily dispatched, the group managed to overcome them, explore the room and then proceed to the next. This whole area of the fortress seemed to be for imprisoning and torturing victims. One area seemed exclusively for solitary confinement, but the decrepit skeletons possessed appendages that seemed monstrous and unnatural.

They returned upstairs and located a softly babbling fountain, guarded by a Vargouille. While its shriek paralyzed both Lor and Rickben, the others managed to destroy it before it could wreak havoc upon them. Adjacent to the small circular room was a staircase leading up. Seris presumed it led to the surface, and could sense a slight breeze, but piles of rubble blocked their path.

They continued back through the prison area and encountered a goblin with a third arm, who cornered them in the narrow hallway and spit a jet of putrid acid upon everyone but Lor, who happened to be standing far enough from the creature to avoid it. Seris also managed to nimbly dodge out of the way, but both Bahram and Rickben became violently ill as the acid coated them. The monstrous goblin seemed to guard this room, but they quickly noticed small wooden panels on the floor and a faint moaning sound issued from them. After dispatching the goblin, Bahram lifted one of the wooden panels and discovered a zombie inside, clawing at the ceiling. He closed the panel, and they proceeded.

Another staircase branched from this narrow hallway and led down, but was also caved in. Rickben could hear the sounds of an otherworldly hound snarling below, and Lor could read brief glimpses of Thassilonian words that appeared in flashes and Seris could comprehend words appearing in Abyssal that flashed as well. Perturbed, they continued down the hall, and found a spherical room with several items floating about the chamber. Lor walked inside, and immediately began floating as she moved about to collect the myriad items: a bottle of wine, a wand, a scroll, and a book (she ignored the decomposing raven). The room itself seemed constructed of some darkened metal, and flashes of obsidian lightning punctuated the otherwise silent chamber. Satisfied she had collected all she could, Bahram threw a rope to her, and pulled her back to normal gravity. Interested in the book, Seris asked to see it, and because of her knowledge of Abyssal, understood the book to be a grisly prayer book to Lamashtu—the mother of monsters.

The group doubled back toward the entrance and came across a stone altar with a scooped depression in the center. They played with the water that stagnated within the altar, but made nothing of it, and eventually grew bored. They proceeded through the next room, where they found a fountain and a strange well, which Lor identified as an ancient source of power—a minor Runewell. A quasit burst from the shadows and cut her arm. The drop of blood fell into the runewell and a sinspawn emerged and moved toward the party. The quasit quickly summoned a lemure and lobbed spells and hexes at the group, but they failed to overcome the creatures resistances, and after taking a beating, the group had nearly fallen. A few well-placed blows then knocked her into submission and she fled, leaving the group battered to stumble back to town to rest.

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To Thistletop!

When all finally arose after two days of recuperation and communication with the town authorities, things started off slowly at the Rusty Dragon—that is, except for Bahram. He awoke to a strange gift of chocolates and a note from a secret admirer. Seris wasted no time spying over his shoulder to try and read the note, and then subsequently devouring the unattended chocolates as Bahram struggled to understand who could be interested in him. They filled Krac in on the things he’d missed since their last excursion (from whatever nasty food poisoning he’d contracted) while Rickben busied himself with ridding the table of the scourge brought forth by delicious bacon.

After briefly discussing their next move—to intercept the goblins at Thistletop and reclaim the casket of Ezakien Toben, the group left the comfort of their table at the inn and ventured outside. They caught a glimpse of three people of note walking in the streets, who Seris pointed out as Ven Vinder walking with his daughter Shayliss Vinder, and Titus Scarnetti walking briskly across town. They hurried on to their destination without delay.

Rickben led the group to the Nettlewood out east about four miles from Sandpoint. With only two hours of searching, Rickben managed to find the entrance to the complex where the Thistletop tribe resided. They snuck inside the nettle-ridden door and hunched down into the network of goblin-sized tunnels. Rickben felt at home, and immediately scanned the surroundings for the presence of goblins. He found a trail of an exceptionally heavy object dragged through the tunnels.

After meandering through the woods, Rickben found a pen of goblin dogs and tried to calm them, but was unsuccessful, so Krac stepped in and roared at them. Realizing the futility of their efforts, they left the dogs behind and continued to follow the tracks. They noticed something in the bushes, but before they could react, a goblin came about the corner with his pet cougar, and a battle ensued. The stinging nettles in the tunnels made fighting exceptionally difficult, and the group struggled to find a tactically sound position to the fight the small goblin and his ferocious pet, so they flounded a bit before regaining the advantage and sending him fleeing into the woods.

Lor and Seris walked forward into his den and looked about, and Lor produced a scroll she had found before and cast a spell into the stinging nettles. A shriek followed the jet of flame, and when the smoke cleared, they found the tiny goblin lying dead in the brambles. Seris stripped him of his belongings, and they continued on their way. Bahram commented briefly, with sudden recognition in his eyes that this was the location of the Thistletop tribe; all of the goblins must reside here.

Emerging shortly thereafter from the nettles, the group found themselves overlooking a sheer cliff face down to the ocean, with Thistletop fort looming before them atop an island and a weakened rope bridge leading up to the island. Rickben braved the rope bridge first and made it safely across. Lor calmly walked second. Bahram, perturbed by the whistling winds and long fall, decided to run across the bridge. It groaned in protest with each footfall. Seris decided to tie a rope around Krac for his trip across, and her foresight paid off. As he made it five feet out onto the bridge, the ropes on the western side gave way, and the bridge attempted to dump its single trespasser into the ocean below. Unperturbed, Krac took back to the single rope line and shimmed across with little effort. He faltered and fell briefly, but a belay line in place kept him from plummeting to the ocean below and he eventually made it across.

The final person to cross—Seris—determined walking the rope would be the most expedient way across. She balanced until about halfway across, at which point she lost her balance, faltered, and fell. Attempting to catch herself, her hands slipped the rope, and she fell. Tapping into her elemental heritage, she summoned the wind to guide her gently to the ocean below. Because she was anchored to the far side however, she floated calmly to the distance of the secured rope, and her companions pulled her up.

The door to the fort was wide open. They warily traipsed inside, looking about, and found nothing in the immediate vicinity. Continuing on into the fort, they found a tall guard tower manned at its base by two sleeping goblins. Rickben and Seris took to murdering the two goblins in their sleep, and neither awakened. They found a sack of half-eaten pickles in the corner of the room.

They returned to the other side of the fort, and found a bedroom filled with sleeping goblins. Similarly, the group of them dispatched the goblins quietly and effectively.

Then they proceeded up to the second guard tower, ascended with a start through the roof’s trap door, and scared the poop out of the goblins there playing guards. Unfortunately for the group, they fought better than they guarded, and managed to land a few telling blows before they managed to dispatch them.

A bit wounded and worse for wear, the group paused in the tower to assess their surroundings and prepare for whatever lay ahead.

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Into the Depths, Part 2

Riding on their recent victory, the group descended down the secret stairs Krac had found before. He lead them into the final basement floor, and through a small room featuring recesses filled with statues. Krac led them on into a small hallway flanked by glaive-wielding statues, and despite his keen eyes, he failed to notice the pressure plate hiding beneath his feet as he stepped into the hallway. Two portcullises fell, trapping him between them, and the statues came to life slashing with eerie dispassion. With nowhere to run, Krac took the full assault, and crumpled to the ground. To his friend’s dismay, the floor gave way and deposited him in a pit below and the portcullises raised.

Seris darted forward with her tiny instruments and managed to disable the trap, and the others quickly dropped down to retrieve Krac’s body and prevent his death. They pulled him to safety and administered a healing draught. Without delay, they charged ahead into the hallway before them and opened the door. Inside, a silver-haired Aasimar with fair skin and piercing eyes glowered at the intrusion. A Mwangi woman watched with a look a bemusement on her face, while another Yeth hound unleashed his baying upon the hallway. Orik stepped forth and unleashed an arrow at Nualia, but it failed to penetrate her armor. Before he could unleash another volley, she charged the hallway spitting vitriol at his betrayal, and then began her assault, assisted by her otherworldly pet.

She unleashed a barrage of damaging energy upon the group, hacking away with her bastard sword and screaming praise to Lamashtu. The other woman disappeared in a shimmer of energy, and reappeared down the hallway moments later to began a barrage of magical energy. Members of the group began to look bloodied and ragged at that point, grasping to cling to life. Orik, seeing an opening, finally rallied behind Nualia and landed the killing blow. Her hound fell to the combined assault of Seris and Bahram, and the mysterious woman disengaged and fled up the stairs. They were too tired to pursue her.

They continued on into the room Nualia occupied, and were fascinated to find that the waters burbling in here allowed vision out of the complex into the surrounding area. They continued south into the next area, which opened and then narrowed into a towering pile of gold coins to the east. Rickben looked closely and noticed tiny coin-sized slots. He inserted a coin, and the tower ground down into the floor to allow access to the vestibule beyond. Inside, they found a small throne room with a faded illusion of a robed man speaking to a crowd before him. A message repeated in Thassilonian, over and over again.

Lor translated,

“…is upon us, but I command you remain. Witness my power, how Alaznist’s petty wrath is but a flash compared to my strength. Take my final work to your graves and let its memory be the last thing you…”

They continued south, not sure of the message’s meaning, and opened two great stone doors. Inside, a barghest awaited them, and he grinned with a strangely human smile. “I hunger. So much,” he rasped. Wide eyed, the group grabbed their weapons and prepared to attack. Rickben stepped in with his sword in hand, but the creature mauled him and he immediately collasped to the floor. Stunned, his companions tried to drag him from the room. Orik charged in and swung his sword, but the barghest appeared to wink in and out of reality, and his blow had no effect. The creature’s eyes flashed with malevolence, and Orik turned around, beckoning to the others, “He’s really quite nice when you get to know him.” They exchanged worried glances, and as Rickben’s prone body cleared the doors, they slowly closed them. Moments later, Orik’s screams echoed through the corridor.

They fled the scene and walked into a small chamber with statues of a Runelord adorning the small recesses. Bahram crept inside, and animate shadows leaped from behind the statues and began sapping his strength. He withstood several sapping blows before being forced to retreat.

Completely battered, and with many clinging to life, they decided to depart. They retreated back upstairs, claimed Shadowmist and Warchief Ripnugget, repaired the bridge, and left to return to Sandpoint.

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Chapter 2 -- The Skinsaw Murders
Evil strikes Sandpoint

After ridding Thistletop of the dangers within, and deactivating the minor runewell underneath the city of Sandpoint, the adventurers had a brief reprieve to take care of personal business and explore.

About a week passes before Belor Hemlock approaches the PCs with grave news: a grisly double murder at the lumber mill has claimed the lives of both Katrine Vinder (one of the daughters of Ven Vinder) and Banny Harker. Even more perplexing, the sheriff says, is that the killer seems to know Lor. He hands her a scrap of paper with her name upon it that reads:

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

The note is signed by “Your Lordship,” and despite its ominous nature, Sheriff Hemlock assures the group he doesn’t suspect them. Instead, he requests their help investigating, and provides a few leads. First, Ibor Thorn was the first upon the scene and was already questioned. Ibor ran the mill with Banny Harker. Ven Vinder had been arrested on suspicion of committing the murders, but Hemlock didn’t suspect he had anything to do with it. Three con men from Galduria were found murdered in an abandoned barn south of town a few days ago. Their bodyguard survived, but was sent to Habe’s Sanatorium as he drifted into insanity shortly after witnessing the events. Lastly, a seven-pointed Sihedron rune was carved into Harker’s chest, but the importance of the clue was lost on Hemlock.

Without much delay, the group set off to investigate the murders. When they arrived upon the scene, it appeared even worse than they had expected. The young woman lay eviscerated on the log splitter, and the man pinned to a wall. They quickly set about investigating the scene and found a few notable facts:

1) A set of footprints leads up the pier, up to a second-floor window, and down into the mill itself.
2) A desperate struggle broke out in the mill, as evidenced by blood spatters and scattered footprints.
3) Footprints reeking of rotten meat run across the floor. In fact, the whole mill reeks of some unearthly smell. It is strongest on the blade of an axe embedded in the floor.
4) Katrine Vinder’s corpse lay mangled on the mill’s lower floor amid heaps of bloodstained firewood. It appears the efficient log splitter likely ripped her to pieces.
5) Harker’s body is affixed to the wall by several hooks. The body was mutilated—his face was carved away and the lower jaw was missing entirely. A Sihedron Rune is branded on his chest. It appears he was clawed to death, somehow.
6) A suspicious handaxe is embedded within the floor of the mill, and the rotten stink emanating from it seems to be that of a ghast. The bladed portion seems to have picked up some rotten chunks of meat, and reeks most strongly of death.
7) Rickben traveled across the river, and located some tracks that seemed to stand in a stationary point in the bushes, and then travel into the water. Presumably, the assailant traveled across the river and up into the mill after observing closely.

After investigating the mill, the adventurers traveled to the Sandpoint Garrison, where they interrogated Ibor Thorn and Ven Vinder. Neither suspect mentioned much of note, and the suspicion quickly fell from them to some other undetermined suspect. To follow up on the information regarding the Sihedron Rune, they traveled just up the road to speak with Brodert Quint. He quickly regaled them of stories of the Old Light, indicating it was formerly a weapon of immense power. He mentions that the Sihedron Rune itself indicated the seven virtues of rule: wealth, fertility, honest pride, abundance, eager striving, righteous anger, and rest. Conversely, he suspected the rune also symbolized the seven schools of magic, as well as the seven mortal sins: greed, lust, pride, gluttony, envy, wrath, and sloth.

After obtaining what information they could from Sandpoint, the group ventured out into the Sandpoint Hinterlands to Habe’s Sanatorium. Belor Hemlock informed them that the only witness to the death of the three con men a week prior was Grayst Sevilla, who is now being held at the Sanatorium a few miles southeast of Sandpoint.

They arrived to the small, three story complex a little later that evening and, seeing a call bell, pulled the bell. A hurried man with a small black frock and hat, wrapped in a purple scarf, appeared and demanded to know what the interruption was. He had very important things to do, he indicated, and after they failed to convince him otherwise, he told them to leave and promptly shut the door.

Unperturbed by the man’s gruff refusal, Seris walked down the creaky deck and set to picking the external lock to the building. Krac and Bahram meandered over to investigate, but neither were as stealthy as Seris. After removing her armor to get a better angle on the lock, the commotion attracted some orderlies within the building, and as she failed to pick the lock, two hulking tieflings opened the door and grimaced at her. The frenetic man bobs in the back, clearly enraged at the attempted burglary, and orders them thrown off the premises.

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A bump in the attic
Exploring the Sanatorium

A melee erupts at the servant’s entrance. Alarmed and in the line of fire, Seris dances back off the deck, at which point Krac and Bahram step forward to fill the gap. A startled Erin Habe flees the hallway and disappears while the two orderlies attempt to strong arm the intruders out of the building.

They easily dispatch the two orderlies and spill into the building, searching for Erin. Seris tries the basement door, but it’s locked, so she busies herself with unlocking it. Unsatisfied with waiting, Krac charges upstairs and proceeds to kick down the door into the holding cells. As he begins kicking at the door, two men inside begin hollering and whining.

Lor questions, “Are any of you Grayst?” They answer no. They introduce themselves as Wald and Blind Sedge. Krac smashes down the door shortly thereafter, and as they step in, they see the towering Wald to the right, and the scraggly Blind Sedge on the left.

After a brief pause and a strangely pointless conversation, they proceed upstairs.

On the third floor, they find three rooms of note. In the first locked room, a creature frantically paces back and forth behind an iron door. They leave it unmolested for the time being and move to the largest room. Inside, they find two fairly large operating tables, and a cabinet filled with supplies. Lor identifies it as a quantity that exceeds the norm for treating patients, and guesses something more nefarious occurs in that room.

Not interested in sticking around, they exit the room and head further down the hall. Lor pauses at the last door in the hallway.

“Are you Grayst?” She asks in earnest. The voice beyond the door twitches into action.

Seris unlocks the door, and Lor is left staring down at the wasting frame of Grayst Sevilla. He peers up at Lor, and exclaims:

“He said. He said you would visit me. His Lordship. The one that unmade me said so. He has a place for you. A precious place. I’m so jealous. He has a message for you. Me made me remember it. I hope I haven’t forgotten. The master wouldn’t approve if I forgot. Let me see…let…me…see…”

Grayst pauses, staring at Lor with glowing eyes and a distended jaw. Then he slowly slithers off the floor and rises, speaking with sudden clarity.

“He said that if you came to his Misgivings, that if you joined his Pack, he would end his harvest in your honor.”

Without warning, he charges. As the melee erupts in the small hallway, Lor struggles to extricate herself, and Grayst manages to smash her in the nose before succumbing to his wounds.

Slightly perturbed, the group returns down the hallway to gauge the occupant of the barred holding cell. After Seris unlocks the door, they open it to find a deranged wererat scrabbling back and forth inside. He leaps to attack, but Krac scares him into submission. He agrees to answer their questions, but seems preoccupied with any shiny sword to come into his view. Pidget Tergelson, as he introduces himself, has been residing at the Sanatorium for as long as he can remember. He explains that Erin conducts experiments upon him, but seems less interested in conversation, and more interested with Seris’ brandished dagger.

Uninterested in further conversation or conflict, they shut the door and lock him back inside.

They head back downstairs.

Between the second and first floors, the group is accosted by a lone zombie in the stairwell. The lone zombie quickly turns to two, three, and then a fourth, as they pour upstairs. As they fight their way down the stairs, it quickly becomes apparent that some force is directing the zombies. A necromancer appears at the base of the stairs, and launches a stinking cloud into the room above. Its nauseating vapors quickly claim the breakfasts of Lor, Bahram, and Krac, who proceed to empty their stomachs for several precious seconds.

Rickben and Seris mobilize on an offensive, with Seris tumbling down to the floor below to avoid attacks. The necromancer levels further spells at her, and blinds her with an incantation and a wave of his hand. Suddenly disoriented, she tumbles away and vanishes, struggling to stay out of sight.

Meanwhile, the rest of her group upstairs struggles to stay standing from the waves of nausea. The cloud continues to obscure their sight, and the zombies emerge from the foggy bank to renew their assault on the group. The wizard and Erin patiently await the group’s arrival at the base of the stairs.

As the nausea wears off, and the group returns down the stairs, Bahram is the first down, and receives the full force of another blinding spell. He blinks his eyes, suddenly unable to see, and struggles down the stairs to join the fray. The sadistic man cackles, and Rickben, Krac, and Lor race down the stairs to confront the wizard. They find him leveling spell after spell at the group, a seemingly endless barrage of necromantic magic.

Erin flees the group, and finds himself in the foyer with a blind Seris. She flails at him with her daggers, and he responds with a sound strike of his dagger, at which point Seris falls unconscious.

In the next room, they quickly surround the wizard, so he retreats out the front door and quaffs a healing potion, at which point he surrenders. Unsatisfied with surrender, Krac attempts to strike the man down anyway. Rickben flanks him, and deals the final blow. They’re quick to stabilize him and confine him to one of the cells upstairs.

After coming to, Lor and Seris stand nearby attempting to question him. He introduces himself as Caizarlu, and before he has much time to react, Krac begins explaining the reasons why he needs to cooperate, and the man reluctantly agrees. Their first demand is the release of his blinding spell, so he complies. Seris and Bahram’s eyesight both return.

He explains that he’s an investor, and he managed to meet the perfect marriage of convenience in Erin’s facility—patients to experiment on in a remote location, and a relatively low financial risk.

Enraged at the man’s calculating coldness, and infuriated by his vile curiosities, Seris steps forward and slits his throat before he can speak any further.

Solemnly, they depart down to the basement after contemplating resting for the night, and find that he’s been stashing bodies for experimentation. They’ve been preserved with magic, but the intent is still fairly clearp—as Lor indicates, the area is best equipped for necromantic experiments. Inside the lair, they find a map indicating a rise in the frequency of “ghoul activity” in the Sandpoint Hinterlands. He indicates a particular rise of sightings around the southern farmlands and along Foxglove River.

His research also further revealed a fascination with tracing a ghoul’s lineage back through several “generations” of ghoul attacks, but the biggest indication seemed to be that a “ghoulish source” has risen to prominence within the region.

They collect what treasure they can find and quickly depart back to Sandpoint to inform Sheriff Hemlock and continue their pursuit of the perpetrator of the string of murders.

The list of spoils:
Erin’s life savings: 41 gp
Wand of Gentle Repose (17 charges)
Wand of False Life (29 charges)
Wand of Identify (15 charges)
Caizarlu’s spellbook
Contains:
Acid Arrow, Blindness/Deafness, Cause Fear, Chill Touch, Command Undead, Displacement, False Life, Gentle Repose, Ghoul Touch, Halt Undead, Identify, Mage Armor, Magic Missle, Mirror Image, Obscuring Mist, Ray of Enfeeblement, Stinking Cloud, Vampiric Touch
11 pp
4 gp
14 sp

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Walking Scarecrows
Lost in the fields

The following morning, the group is approached by Sheriff Hemlock, with a curious man in tow. He introduces himself as Maester Grump, and begins babbling about walking scarecrows. He finally manages to calm himself down and explain the southern farmlands have become plagued by foul walking scarecrows that stalk the night. All the farmers knew that the problems were coming from the old Hambley place.

“Things just ain’t been right there for a few days now,” Maester Grump elaborates.

A group of locals decided to investigate the farm for themselves yesterday evening, and were attacked by folk that looked like corpses, but fed like feral animals.

He interrupts himself, “They even ate the dogs!”

Hemlock interjects and explains he and his men picked up Grump as he ran into town screaming about scarecrows, and asks them to investigate the farm. The heroes can smell booze on his breath, but Sheriff Hemlock doesn’t doubt the truth of his words. He promises to send four of his men with the group to assist with the reconnaissance: Llywellan, Bartok, Pak, and Therin.

They immediately set off for the Hambley farm, and when they arrived, they were met with vast fields of corn overseen by eerie scarecrows. The knowledge of their “walking” only served to deepen the sense of foreboding as they entered the maze. The group approached a set of scarecrows to investigate, and as they neared them, the bodies began to struggle against the ropes binding them to their posts. They broke free and charged the group. As they attacked, the heroes realized the scarecrows were in fact ghouls, and handily dispatched them.

They continued forward into the farm, and were met with further ghoul resistance. As Pak ran off into the fields to fight against an unseen ghoul, he fell prey to the creature’s paralyzing touch, and was promptly mauled before the heroes could reach him. They ended the two ghouls shortly thereafter.

Without much time to mourn his passing, the group continued on to the farmhouse and proceeded to explore the barn. There, they found a 12-foot-high stone head, canted slightly to the left, depicting a helmed warrior, his face a stern model of determination. They didn’t find anything else of interest there, so they proceeded over to the farm house.

Seris and Lor urged caution as the group approached, so they began meticulously peering in the windows and walking about the structure before entering. Partway through their investigation, a shriek sounded from inside, so Bahram charged in. Krac followed suit, and they were met a single ghoul at the end of the entryway. It promptly began shrieking wildly, and two more ghouls and a ghast poured out.

The two pressed forward, but the others lingered at the back. Therin, Bartok, and Llywellan jumped in to battle to aid as they could.

Bahram was paralyzed by the ghoul, and spent most of the beginning of the fight out of the action, while battled raged about him. The ghouls poured toward the entrance, and jumped through the windows to get around at the tastier targets. Seris, Krac, and Rickben managed to avoid becoming stunned, but Lor and Llywellan fell prey to the paralyzing touch of the ghouls.

When the paralysis had worn off Bahram, he charged into the back of the house to investigate, but managed to spy a glimpse of more ghouls that poured through the back entrance. The group managed to fell the undead horrors, and took to exploring the old farmhouse. Inside they found one thing of note—the owner of the farm, Hambley, lay mutilated on the floor of the kitchen, a note pinned to his body.

It read, “Take the fever into you, my love—it shall be but the first of my gifts to you.”

Inside his coat was a key. Searching the bodies of the ghouls, Seris found an iron key about the neck of a ghast. She recognized the symbol upon it—a flower surrounded by thorns—as the family heraldry of the Foxglove family. They took the key with them, and collected themselves before ridding of the farm of the remaining ghoul scarecrows.

Two of the bodies they retrieved were still living. The couple, parched and clinging to life, identified themselves as Horran and Lettie Guffman. They escorted the two back to Sandpoint and took them immediately to the Sandpoint Cathedral to receive care under Father Abstalar Zantus.

They returned to Sandpoint with no interruptions or further issues, and rested for the evening to recover their strength.

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Convalescing

The next morning, the group awoke, and both Bahram and Lor quickly realized they felt under the weather. It wasn’t too large a stretch to imagine they had fallen prey to the same ghoul fever suffered by those they had encountered before.

Rickben tended to them, using his knowledge of herbs and curative mixtures to aid in their recovery. Bahram recovered largely on his own, but Lor needed additional help, as she seemed to worsen over two days.

Horran succumbed to the disease on the first night back in Sandpoint, and rose as a ghoul, attacking those around him. The acolytes at the cathedral subdued him and destroyed him utterly. Lettie managed to survive and is slowly convalescing.

Meanwhile, Llywellan and Bartok began showing symptoms of the disease. Llywellan’s condition began to deteriorate as the days continued, but Bartok managed to improve.

Lor visited Father Abstalar Zantus at the Sandpoint Cathedral and made a donation to receive a spell of Lesser Restoration to restore some of her vitality lost by the disease. As she worsened, she visited him again to receive the restorative healing energies. With Rickben’s continued ministrations, she fully recuperated from the disease, but it took four days.

While they rested, Seris asked about town for information pertaining to the Foxglove manor, and then made a decision to travel to Magnimar and procure supplies for the group and sell some of their wares, under the agreement that upon her arrival they’d leave immediately for the Foxglove manor.

While Seris was away, two more townsfolk fell prey to ghoul attacks on the second and third nights—the butcher Chod Bevuk and grocer Olmur Danvakus—which prompted a mild frenzy about town as common folk paid visits to The Rusty Dragon as well as the Sandpoint Garrison to plead for help in catching the killers. At one point on the third day, even Sheriff Hemlock appeared to check on Lor, even going so far as to pray for her recovery so she and her friends could help put a stop to the menace.

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