Rise of the Runelords

The Wrecking Crew

The Skinsaw Murders, Part 9

Toilday, 14 Neth, 4733

The party gathers their four prisoners—Arthur, the near-death elf, and the two unconscious cultists, on the third floor. Using detect magic, Marcus is able to recognize that the elf appears to be under a charm monster spell.

While Zavian begins preparing a dispel magic spell, Marcus heads up to the elf’s office. He learns more from Ash about the location of the “snake lady tower” gleaned from the messenger ravens. Marcus then digs into a footlocker in the room, which has strange baubles, oddments, and papers, including a gilded book of stories about the Tane, sinister fey creatures. At the very bottom of the chest is a ledger and journal, which appears to be written in a cipher of Elven, Draconic, and a third language Marcus doesn’t recognize.

In a hidden compartment in the desk is a list with a dozen names, all but four of which are crossed out. One of the four names is that of Haldmeer Grobaras, Lord-Mayor of Magnimar.

Marcus returns downstairs in time to hear Lea and the rest of the party interrogate the blind cultist Arthur. He explains how the cult operates the sawmill as a front. Every Oathday at midnight they’d gather for a sermon, names of targets would be announced and assignments handed out to take their lies.

Arthur himself had never been assigned to such a mission, and complains about never getting to do anything while in the cult, which he decries as the worst one he ever joined. He promises to turn over a new leaf in his sight is restored.

Arthur also reveals that the elf, the cult leader, is none other than Justice Ironbriar of the Magnimar Justice Court.

With this information, the party wakes Ironbriar and questions him. He is less than forthcoming until Zavian casts dispel magic on him to remove the charm. His demeanor immediately changes and he blames everything on Xanesha. He claims that she turned the Brotherhood of the Seven from a quasi-secret society into a murder cult. However, the party soon realizes that he is lying and that the Seven were murderous followers of the dark god Norgorber long before Xanesha hijacked the cult for her own ends.

Ironbriar describes her as a shapeshifter who initially appeared in the form of a beautiful Varisian woman but whose true nature takes the shape of a snake below her torso. None of the Rune Wardens are able to identify what kind of creature she might be.

Zavian questions him about Tsuto and Ironbriar reveals that the half-elf is his son, the product of a liaison with Lady Kaijitsu. He tried to protect the boy from punishment, but Tsuto remains obsessed with Nualia. The half-elf is in Magnimar after a failed trip to Sandpoint.

Ironbriar tries to trade information about Xanesha’s hideout and defenses for a chance at escape, but they aren’t buying. Instead, they argue that he should divulge the information to ensure leniency for his son. The elf thinks on this and ultimately caves, explaining that Xanesha has faceless stalker minions and an awakened flesh golem called the Scarecrow guarding her base of operations—a notorious landmark in the Underbridge district called the Shadow Clock.

Zavian asks about Ironbriar’s knowledge of the Rushlight Society and the elf insists on speaking to the cleric alone. Ironbriar explains that the Rushlight Society is a sort of highwayman’s guild that he believes is being funded by Korvosa to hurt Magnimar’s economy. The Society recruits individual gangs, most of whose members don’t even know that their actions are being guided by a hidden hand. Ironbriar suspects the Society’s headquarters is in the Mushfens. Zavian, thinking on how the bandit raids had been hurting his parents’ business, promises to keep the information secret.

The party completes their search of the sawmill, but finds little else of note. Outside, the Nualia vivicar has slain a cultist coming up from below the mill, but has suffered significant damage. Eerie golden light seeps out of the rends in her clay form, but Marcus makes extensive use of the mend spell to repair her.

The adventurers then haul their four captives back up to the Summit, where they deliver them at the Arvensoar. Captain Acacia Urania, roused from bed, is impressed at their quick results, though they warn her that they are still following up on one of the remaining Star Killer conspirators. They ask for an extension of their authority as deputies and she grants them another week. Marcus and Zavian plan to use some of that time to decipher Ironbriar’s journal, which is written in a combination of Elven, Draconic and Infernal.

Wealday, 15 Neth – Fireday, Neth 17, 4733

Astrid seeks out the smith that Viorian Dekanti recommended, a Kellid woman named Neshka who hails from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords. The barbarian woman remarks on Astrid’s double-bladed sword, Echo, and the half-elf reveals that she is questing after her brother and the giants who destroyed her village. Neshka says that her tribe was also destroyed by giants, forcing her to flee south, where she ended up in Magnimar.

The Kellid woman says that the ancestors spoke to her in a vision the night before and told her of Astrid, that the warrior woman would avenge her tribe against the giants who wronged them. When Astrid asks after a glove of storing to carry Echo more conveniently, Neshka sells it to her barely above cost. Astrid promises to return, should she need more tool to fight giants.

Marcus and Lea, meanwhile, visit the dwarven blacksmith Urlin to see about renting a workshop to do armor crafting. Marcus then dredges up a story he’d heard while selling his wares about an obscure magic shop in town.

He and Lea make their way down to the Ordellia District, the most cosmopolitan region in Magnimar, to a nondescript shop called Billivin’s Benevolent Balms and Effulgent Elixirs.

The interior is a tangled maze of sagging shelves and teetering display cases cluttered with a diverse array of magical products and ingredients. The shopkeeper, an absent-minded gnome named Billiver Billivin cheerily purchases the book of fairy tales about the Tane they looted from the sawmill. He manages to remember to sell them two scrolls of major creation.

Marcus uses the first scroll to conjure into being liquid mithral, which he then shapes into a suit of plate for Lea. But Marcus’ attempt to craft armor for himself goes wrong. The end result is tainted by the Far Realm, with gaping maws, twisting tentacles, and unblinking eyes. Marcus also discerns that whoever touches the item suffers an intense compulsion to possess it. He boxes the mess up, hope to find some way to fix this expensive mistake.

Over the intervening days, Zavian and Marcus also complete the decryption of Ironbriar’s combination journal and ledger. The journal contains damning evidence about Ironbriar’s involvement directing the murders of the Skinsaw Cult going back decades. The ledger also contains a disturbing revelation: Ironbriar’s cult procured a sample of Vorel’s Phage once before, 25 years ago, which they sold to the Red Mantis Assassins to assist with their “blood veil” project.

Starday, Neth 18, 4733

After several days of rest, study, and shopping, the Rune Wardens prepare to confront the monstress Xanesha. They journey into the Shadows, also known as Underbridge, the impoverished district shrouded by the enormous expanse of the Irespan. They make their way to Xanesha’s hideout in the decrepit clock tower known as the Shadow Clock. Gazing up at the teetering structure rising almost 180 feet above, they note several holes in the side of the building, surrounded by wooden scaffolding.

The party is aware that Xanesha has a flesh golem ally, and likely faceless stalkers as well. Naturally, they decide to split up. Zavian uses a fly spell to carry himself and the Nualia vivicar aloft, while Marcus uses spiderclimb to scale the wall. Shortly after begin ascending, Lea grows impatient and kicks down the door on the ground floor. The interior of the tower is hollow for much of its height, with an interior scaffolding and staircase circling its interior before reaching the belfry high above.

The ladies then stalk into the open floor, and Astrid quickly spots the flesh golem lurking in the corner. Lea moves in to join the fray, while Amelia realizes her spells are useless against the creature and resorts to urging her allies along. The flesh golem, known as the Scarecrow, wears a wide-brimmed straw hat and wields an enormous scythe, a gray cloaking hanging from his shoulders.

Marcus peers through a hole in the tower wall and spies several figures lurking in the belfry. Assuming them to be enemies, the wizard cheerfully tests out his new fireball spell. The ensuing explosion destroys the scaffolding around the belfry, sending the burning faceless stalkers plunging to the ground—and with them, four giant bronze bells.

One bell nearly crushes Amelia. Another almost lands on the golem. Lea instinctively ducks out of the way of the third bell as it crashes down, while the final bell smashes into a wagon sending piercing splinters into Astrid and Amelia. Over the ringing in their ears, the ladies hurl curses up at Marcus.

Zavian and the vivicar land at the rookery in the tower, just above the belfry. They batter down a door leading deeper into the tower, only to discover that it leads to the rusted and dust-coated inner workings of the great clock. The cleric waits for Marcus to catch up.

Below, the flesh golem tries to tip one of the giant bells over onto Lea. She manages to dodge this attempt, and instead smashes the construct against the bell. The creature slumps over dead.

Far up above, Zavian, Marcus, and the vivicar ascend to the highest room in the tower, located just beneath the giant, grime-encrusted statue of the angel. They send the vivicar inside the shadowy room. Outside, a winged demon appears in a puff of smoke and whirls around the tower.

Marcus ignores the creature and enlarges himself before entering the room—where he is ambushed by Xanesha. The snake woman is clad in a vest of snakeskin, wearing a strange golden mask with writhing snakes stretching out from it, a vicious spear in her hand.

On the ground floors, the women realize that they are 170 feet away from the main battle and begin racing up the interior stairs.

Zavian ignores the winged demon as well and follows Marcus into the room. The giant-sized wizard hurls another fireball at Xanesha, blowing out a corner of the room and setting the floor on fire. The snake woman retreats out of the flames towards the pile of silken cushions in the opposite corner and casts a spell that sends Zavian into a deep slumber. The half-elven Marcus is unaffected.

Down below, the women find that the huge bronze bells destroyed sections of the interior walkway during their plunge. Astrid and Amelia leap across, while Lea uses her climbing kit to slowly cross the gap.

Up above, Marcus uses telekinetic fist to slap Zavian awake. Xanesha then fixes Marcus with her baleful gaze, the mask flaring with green light. The half-elf feels his body start to grow rigid and sees his fingers start to turn to stone. Within moments, a giant-sized, petrified half-elf stands in the center of the room, the floor straining under his weight, together with the six illusory doubles created by his mirror image spell.

Zavian realizes that it is just him and the vivicar trapped in a burning room facing a superior foe, with a winged demon outside. Noting that Xanesha is standing by the opposite wall of the room, the aasimar does some quick calculations and then unleashes a carefully targeted shape stone spell. His magic peels away the stone wall supporting the floor posts. Half the wooden floor crumples, sending Xanesha toppling out into the open air.

Unfortunately, however, she casts a spell and begins falling much more slowly, turning invisible moments later.

Unable to help Marcus, Zavian goes after the winged demon, but it is revealed to be a mere illusion.

The floor gives way underneath the giant-sized petrified Marcus and his six mirror images, sending them plunging down through the tower. Zavian calls out to Amelia to help the stone wizard. She draws upon a feather fall spell, but is unsure which of the seven falling Marcuses is the real one. she ultimately casts the spell on six of them, managing to include the real Marcus. The seven stone giants begin gently floating down, while the women rush downstairs.

Zavian takes stock of the damage to the tower, drawing on his civil engineering training from the church of Abadar to realize that the tower is moments from collapse. he hollers another warning to the others and then quickly concocts a scheme to retrieve all seven of the locked chests in Xanesha’s quarters, risking his life to make a second trip.

Down below, Lea, Astrid, and Amelia manage to lasso the floating Marcus and gently steer him towards the exit like a balloon on a string, aware that once he touches the ground the spell will end and he will regain his full weight. They barely manage to pull him clear before the building implodes, while up above, Zavian dodges the falling angel statue to fly off with the last of the loot.

Depositing the last chest on the ground outside, he reveals to the others that he had the wherewithal to cast locate object on Xanesha’s strange mask and swiftly sets out on his own to track the invisible snake woman as she flees through the city.!

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