Rise of the Runelords

Random Encounters
The Hook Mountain Massacre, Part 1

Toilday, 28 Neth, 4733

After traveling a few hours away from the ruined elf camp in the Mushfens, the Rune Wardens settle down for the night. Zavian uses shape stone to create a thin layer of stone to keep them out of the mud. Galodar asks after their adventures and is impressed with their accomplishments, but over the course of the evening it becomes clear that he and Shalelu do not get along.

While most of the party beds down for the night in their tents, Zavian keeps watch, his ring of sustenance warding off fatigue. The two elves settle in to trance on opposite sides of the camp, while Vivi strolls around, frequently casting her gaze up at the stars that twinkle in between the banks of clouds.

Then, quite suddenly, a thick mass of fog engulfs the camp, making it difficult to see beyond fa few feet. Zavian realizes that this is no natural effect just as he hears a sickening wet crunch from the direction where Galodar was trancing. Zavian dispells the fog and shouts in alarm, as the clouds part to reveal an aberrant marsh giant. The creature’s greatclub is smeared with blood, as Galodar’s crumbled body bleeds out on the ground. Vivi rushes to defend the elf, while Zavian circles around behind the main tent.

The rest of the camp lurches awake. Nualia stumbles out of the large tent in her underwear, bastard sword in hand, to find herself face to face with the giant. Lea comes running out of her tent, earthbreaker ready. The grotesque creature stumbles away from them, trampling over Astrid’s tent as she barely manages to avoid the enormous footsteps. Amelia starts singing an inspiring tune as she wriggles out of her tent. Marcus emerges and hurls a fireball at the giant.

This unfortunately attracts the attention of another marsh giant perched on a fallen tree a hundred some feet away. This giant hurls a boulder at Marcus and continues to pelt the camp with stones. Shalelu looses arrows back at him, but to little effect. Marcus’ spells have a sharper bite, but also make him more of a target. Amelia takes to the air in her hippogriff and pelts the distant giant with glitterdust.

Zavian intones a prayer for the party, while Astrid leaps up, trying to land on the aberrant giant’s back, but he ducks and she instead lands behind him. Lea charges the monstrosity and it strikes her with it’s greatclub. The savage blow nearly knocks her to the ground and cracks the club.

The giant casts the weapon aside and bellows “Mokmurian!”

Lea and Astrid catch the creature in a flanking position and begin to hack into it. Nualia charges the tentacled monster and ducks under its swing to catch it in the groin with her bastard sword. The loss of its little tentacle brings the already overbalanced giant to its knees, where Astrid delivers the killing blow.

The remaining marsh giant tries to make a break for it, but Amelia uses her hippogriff to ferry the eager warriors from the campsite to its position. Zavian and Lea heal Galodar and the others, but Astrid’s tent is a loss.

Astrid keeps watch for the remainder of the night while Zavian rests and talks with the two elves. She asks Galodar about her brother, her father and life in Isandria. Galodar explains that unlike Shalelu’s homeland in the Mierani Forest to the north, the main city of Isandria was kept hidden from interlopers during the elves’ millennia of seclusion at Sovyrian. This allowed them to move back in with relative ease.

(Shalelu notes that the Isandrians have not taken advantage of their good fortune to help their cousins in the Mierani Forest.)

But dangers still lurk in the wider forest, and it is the job of the Ranger Guard to secure it. The Guard lacks the resources to keep all intruders out, so over the years Isandria’s leafy expanse has played home to more and more unauthorized human settlers: bandits, refugees, and foresters. It has become a significant political issue for the royal court, which is divided between two factions.

The Highborne, favored by Queen Tavara, wish to expel the humans before they further pollute elven lands and culture. The Stalwarts support King Thalion’s position of toleration, which seeks to incorporate the humans into the realm and teach them proper elvish ways.

(Shalelu interjects to note that both sides are arrogant and xenophobic, even to other elves.)

The two continue to verbally snipe at each other for the remainder of the night while Astrid tries to keep the peace.

Wealday, 29 Neth, 4733

The party returns to Magnimar and immediately begins preparations to depart for Turtleback Ferry. Lea takes her leave of the group to escort Ameiko back to Sandpoint and hopefully meet up with Ser Chammady of Korvosa at Foxglove Manor along the way.

Astrid reunites with the Kellid smith Neshka to tell her of her first victory over the giants, the first of many Neshka assures her. Astrid’s shipment of mithral has arrived, allowing for the crafting of a suit of plate mail.

Zavian purchases supplies for the journey and also goes clothes shopping with Nualia, who is in a chipper mood after emasculating that giant.

Marcus collects the completed rod from the Seer Stone Academy and finishes some crafting projects over the next few days. He also takes some time to write a short letter to Shayliss, letting her know where he’s gone, and another one to his parents letting them know he may be out of town for Winter Week.

Amelia practices barrel rolls with her hippogriff. She’ll get the hang of it someday.

Fireday, 1 Kuthona, 4733

Having charted a boat to take them up the Yondabakari River towards Turtleback Ferry, the Rune Wardens board the Maiden’s Folly. The boat is captained by Captain Merrey Erwer, a Varisian woman whose swash is at least half-buckled.

She is happy to have adventurers aboard, as river travel has grown more dangerous in recent months. In addition to monsters from the Mushfens, river pirates have grown more active, and ships have simply gone missing out on Lake Syrantula. On their first day out, the boat is assailed by a vicious warm of mosquitos that Marcus brings down with a well-placed burning hands spell.

Disgusted by the sight (and smell) of the Mushfens, Zavian retires to the private cabin he secured for himself and Nualia. The two aasimar spend most of the journey in there getting intimately acquainted with one another, at times rather noisily.

Galodar and Shalelu, meanwhile, stay on deck as much as possible, but stick to opposite sides of the ship, barely speaking. Marcus buries himself in his studies and craft work, while Amelia soars overhead on her horse-bird-lion thing. Vivi, when left to her own devices, attentively watches the landscape pass by.

Moonday, 4 Kuthona, 4733

The night before, the Maiden’s Folly had pulled into Whistledown, a small town that serves as the gateway to Lake Syrantula. The town has as many gnomes as humans, and is renowned for its musical instruments, including windchimes that create a haunting melody at night when the wind comes of the lake. When dawn broke on Moonday, Amelia decided to stay in town a little longer and catch up via hippogriff.

As the Maiden’s Folly makes its way out onto the deeper waters of the lake, something very large bumps into it, sending the boat rocking. The jostling grows more severe, disturbing Zavian and Nualia’s recreation in their cabin, while out on deck Captain Merrey realizes that the boat is being attacked by four giant gar.

As the crew scrambles to their positions, Astrid leans over the side to stab at one and is nearly devoured. Galodar’s string of bad luck continues, as a gar snatches him from the boat and quickly swallows him. Marcus manages to scald three of the enormous fish with a well-placed fireball.

Inside his cabin, Zavian methodically dresses and equips himself, determined not to rush out disheveled.

Astrid skewers the brain of the giant gar that tried to eat her. The fish start to dive, but Marcus hits them with another fireball, killing the one carrying Galodar in its belly. Without a word, Shalelu dives into the water and swims towards the dead creature.

Zavian emerges and grants water breathing to the rest of the party. Astrid and Nualia swim out to the dead gar, where Shalelu manages to cut Galodar free. They bring the wounded elf back up onto the ship. He looks at Shalelu with newfound admiration and perhaps something more, but she doesn’t seem to notice.

Zavian and Marcus, meanwhile, deduce that if this is a hunting ground, there might be more wrecks below the surface they could salvage. After all, they’d already cast water breathing. They concoct a scheme to lower themselves on long ropes to scour the murky depths with a daylight spell. Only midway through do they realize that this plan effectively turns them into giant fishing lures.

Thankfully, there are no predators nearby and they are able to salvage three heavy barrels from a wrecked ship. The barrels’ unspoiled content turns out to be salt. they offer a cut of the salvage to Captain Merrey and her crew. The Captain is very grateful to them for saving her ship and says she’s never seen that many giant gar acting in concert.

Wealday, 6 Kuthona, 4733

After the fishing incident, the Maiden’s Folly turns north towards Ilsurian. Shalelu warns them not to display Magnimarian or Korvosan symbols. Ilsurian stands apart from both city-states, and its insular inhabitants are very suspicious of outsiders.

Marcus recalls that a renowned smith, Vea Semere, lives in Ilsurian and vows to visit her shop. Vea turns out to be a young half-elf woman who specializes in weapon smithing, to meet the constant demand for weapons from the Ilsurians, who prize them as symbols of independence. The two half-elves chat excitedly about smithing and Marcus suggests a future collaboration once his Turtleback Ferry business is done. On his way back to the boat, he has to remind himself to be faithful to Shayliss.

Zavian also goes ashore at Ilsurian to sell the salt, and notices himself being watched by the same stray dog that he’d seen watching him back in Magnimar as early as the Lord-Mayor’s feast. Yet every time he tries to catch the dog, it vanishes. He worries that some sinister being is tracking him.

Fireday, 8 Kuthona, 4733

From Ilsurian, they continue north up the Skull River. The Rune Wardens disembark from the Maiden’s Folly at the village of Pendaka. The rest of their journey is taken aboard the eponymous turtleback ferry, made from the shell of a giant turtle. The ferry takes them across Claybottom Lake to their destination.

It’s raining, and they learn from the ferryman that the winter rains have come early and haven’t let up. It’s the latest ill omen to strike the region. Some months ago, a pleasure boat named the Paradise sank in the lake, killing dozens including its proprietress. In the eerie Shimmerglens on the west bank of the lake, strange lights have been seen at night. And it’s been weeks since a patrol came down from Fort Rannick to the north.

After arriving at Turtleback Ferry, the party gets rooms at the only inn in town, the Turtle’s Parlor, while Marcus arranges accommodations for his wagons. The innkeeper, Cesten Orlandi, substantially overcharges them but Marcus doesn’t mind, as it seems the man gets little other business.

The Rune Wardens decide to wait several days in town for Lea to reunite with them after her adventures in Sandpoint.

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Lost and Found
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 12

After the excitement (and hefty payouts) of the past week, the Rune Wardens do some shopping. Marcus also takes some time to craft himself new armor using the finest mithral.

Marcus then discusses his plan to get the Great Key of Janderhoff back from Brodi by showing him a decoy to get him to check the location of the real key. All but Amelia agree to participate.

After Duli confronts Brodi at the Blue Bunyip, the party tails him back to a house in Lowcleft by the Arvensoar rubble. After convincing his bodyguards to cooperate, they head down into secret catacombs below the house.

There, they find Brodi speaking with his girlfriend, a duergar named Ludmilla. Marcus blinds Brodi, which provokes Ludmilla to enlarge herself. Zavian tries to talk Brodi into surrendering, but he refuses. Ludmilla wounds Astrid before Lea and Astrid beat her unconscious.

Interrogating the two of them, they learn that Brodi ran off with Ludmilla. He took the key so that its anti-scrying enchantments would protect her from her enemies among the Duergar. Lea promises them safe haven in Korvosa.

With the key returned, Duli faces a trip back to Janderhoff. She offers to stay on for a bit, but Marcus sends her off, saying he’s come to value the importance of family.

Next, the party investigates Prince Eldrin’s camp in the Mushfens. Amelia and Astrid scout ahead, riding Amelia’s new hippogriff. From the air, they note that the camp seems abandoned and that there are giant footprints in the area.

The party approaches cautiously as the sun sinks low. Marcus casts enlarge on Lea. They find the bodies of three elven warriors. Zavian inspects one of the bodies, which is seemingly uninjured save for the huge hole driven through its chain shirts. There’s giant tracks on the ground. Shalelu identifies both marsh giants and stone giants, which makes no sense.

As Lea examines one of the bodies. near the tree at the center of the camp, she senses an evil aura coming from high up in the tree. A wave of necrotic energy flares out from a fetish hung high in the tree. The energy stirs the corpses to life. The one Zavian is examining grapples him, while the one by Lea lashes out at her, and the third rises to its feet.

The undead are soon joined by an angry alligator, which surges out of the stagnant water behind the tree to attack Lea. The reptile is quickly followed by a grotesque marsh giant, who trips the paladin with a gaff hook. The fighting is fierce but swift as the Rune Wardens bring down the undead and the giant, who is brought low by a hammer blow from Lea.

They quickly realize that the fetish in the tree is continuing to pump necrotic energy into the elf corpses, reviving them for another round. Amelia, whirling overhead on her griffin, puts an end to the threat by blasting the fetish with her wand of magic missile.

As the adventurers loot the corpses, an unfamiliar hand falls on Zavian’s shoulder. A wounded elven ranger, Captain Galodar, had been hiding using tree shape. After he is revived, he explains that the camp was attacked by a combined force of marsh giants and stone giants. Prince Eldrin and several others were given over to the stone giants as prisoners, to be taken north to Hook Mountain.

The Rune Wardens decide they cannot afford to tarry any longer. With the prince’s life in danger, they need to set forth for Hook Mountain and Turtleback Ferry as soon as possible.

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Dawn of the Scarlet Sun
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 11

Sunday, 19 Neth, 4733

Since he has been forbidden entry at the Kaijitsu villa, Zavian asks Astrid to go inside and summon the other Rune Wardens.

He reintroduces them to Nualia. She is distracted by her vivicar duplicate, whom she and Astrid nave taken to calling Vivi. While the other adventurers are not exactly enthused to have their former foe join them, they press on to the ruined chapel in the Underbridge District. There, Captain Kasadei informs them that no one has entered or exited since the fiendish red gargoyle flew into the structure with his half-elf ally.

The Rune Wardens enter the wrecked building cautiously. Zavian deduces that it was once a shrine to the sun goddess Sarenrae, who otherwise has no temples in Magnimar. As they near the back of the building, they are ambushed by the fiendish red gargoyle, who swoops down to attack Zavian.

The Abadarian cleric finds himself assailed from behind by a vandalized statue of Sarenrae. The statue proves resistant to magic, forcing a more direct approach. Lea is knocked on her back by the gargoyle, but manages to pull the creature on top of her. Thus grounded, the gargoyle is mobbed and defeated, followed by the statue.

Completing their exploration of the grounds, they find a small cemetery out back, where four graves appear to have been freshly dug. They also discover a semi-hidden entrance to the catacombs below.

Astrid scouts ahead and notices an odd design scribed on the floor. Marcus identifies it as a glyph of alarm and Amelia defuses it. The party advances down the corridor and into a chamber that has been transformed into a shrine to the demon lord of lies and murder, Shax. Kneeling before the altar, devouring a human heart, is the half-elf cultist Zadendi.

Zavian challenges her and advances into the room, but she is soon joined by her demonic patron, Avalexi. The demoness eerily resembles a fiendish Sarenrae right down to the flaming scimitar, and she denounces Zavian for his heresy. Not merely for posing as a Sarenrite, for she claims he turned his back on the goddess. Lea tries to threaten the demon, but is dismissed with a “Quiet, child, the grownups are talking.” Avalexi calls forth four undead creatures that form a barricade between her and the party. She also rends open a brief portal to the Abyss, from which spills forth a babau demon that attacks Marcus at the rear of the party’s formation.

Lea and Nualia are caught up battling the undead, while Amelia hurls glitterdust at Zadendi and blinds the cultist. Avalexi flies across the room to attack Zavian. Marcus enlarges himself and battles the babau demon with his glaive. Swords clash and spells fly as the battle is joined. The demoness cuts through Zavian’s armor with her burning blade, while her own revealing outfit shrugs off blows from the cleric and from Astrid. Spells fizzle against the abyssal auras of both demons. The undead aren’t able to inflict much harm against Lea and Nualia, but take a good deal of killing. The cultist Zadendi, still blind, attempts to support the undead by channeling negative energy.

Finally, the tide begins to turn against the demonic forces. Despite the cultist’s efforts, the undead begin to fall and Nualia turns her attention to Avalexi. The demoness retreats back across the chamber towards the altar. Astrid gives chase, while Zavian tends to the party. Marcus retreats from the babau and casts haste upon the party. Lea takes advantage of this to charge Zadendi and delivers a furious blow that splatters the half-elf against the Shax symbol on the wall.

Astrid runs up the wall to leap at the floating Avalexi and slash her. Marcus rushes up to Lea to cast fly upon her. The paladin flies up and then brings her earthbreaker crashing down on the demoness. The remaining babau wisely teleports away.

After looting the bodies, the Rune Wardens report back to Captain Kasadei, who is impressed at their ability to bring down threats far beyond the abilities of her guards. She pays them the reward for bringing the killer to justice, and promises to inform the local Sarenrite community of their actions.

Having foiled another murderer, the party rests for the remainder of the day and prepares for the Lord-Mayor’s upcoming feast. Lea works with Ameiko to assemble a disguise to the event.

Moonday, 20 Neth, 4733

The feast honoring the Rune Wardens is hosted at Defiant’s Garden, an opulent palace perched on the most scenic spot of the Summit, with a view looking out across Magnimar. The palace was claimed by the current Lord-Mayor, Haldmeer Grobaras, as his official residence and he clearly spared no expense on this grandiose events.

There is live music, elegant dancers, patriotic blue and silver bunting at every table, and exquisite cuisine representing the finest of Magnimar’s culinary offerings. A veritable who’s who of prominent residents has turned out for this exclusive event, while the Rune Wardens are given pride of place at the Lord-Mayor’s table, which is located on a raised wooden dais.

Haldmeer Grobaras is a corpulent fellow dressed only in the finest silks and attended by a brass angel with a fiery halo. His chief bodyguard, an unsavory Chelish man, lingers nearby. The Lord-Mayor delivers a speech praising the party’s service to Magnimar, destroying the Skinsaw Cult (and thwarting its plans to assassinate him) and bringing down another murder cult.

Once the Lord-Mayor is done, Zavian asks for permission to speak and explains how the party’s actions have served the will of Abadar. he ends by plugging his family’s restaurant. Lord-Mayor Grobaras says that he should pursue a career in politics. Grobaras also asks Ameiko to pass his best wishes along to “Her Highness,” who he would be most interested to speak with.

Lea, meanwhile, is posing as Ameiko’s handmaiden and has some trouble stifling her reaction as the Lord-Mayor explains that he thinks that he and the princess would have a great deal in common. Lea takes some time out from tending to Ameiko to briefly say hello to Mira, who is among the guests.

The Lord-Mayor then introduces the elven bard Kassiel, who steps out onto the stage to perform a ballad recounting the party’s various heroics, all of which is painted as selfless service to Magnimar. The poetic license extends to the defeat of Xanesha, who is depicted as being slain on the very steps of Defiant’s Garden while attempting to assassinate the Lord-Mayor. Grobaras whispers that this is how you do public relations. The song will be sung far and wide, telling the tale of the Rune Wardens.

As the meal starts to wind down, Grobaras offers the party rewards for stopping the Skinsaw Cult and saving his life. He then asks if they would be interested in carrying out a task for him. Fort Rannick, located in the shadow of Hook Mountain near the distant community of Turtleback Ferry, has recently fallen silent.

Since the fort lies near the border with Korvosa, any large body of troops could be perceived as preparations for an attack. But a small band of heroes could investigate without elevating the already heightened tensions between the two cities. The Lord-Mayor offers to cover their travel expenses for the job. The party agrees, since they were going to head that way anyway to investigate Xanesha’s “sister.”

After hiring on the party, the Lord-Mayor decides to retire from the revelries and summons a team of sturdy porters to literally haul his chair away. His brass angel golem and his bodyguard follow close behind.

Shalelu, having overheard the conversation, asks to join them on the trip to Fort Rannick. She recently learned that her mother’s former lover, a man named Jakardros Sovark, is a member of the Black Arrows, the order of rangers that operates out of the fort. Jakardros abandoned Shalelu decades ago after her mother was killed by a dragon, and the elf woman has some pointed questions to ask him.

Ameiko, however, warns that Hook Mountain is ogre territory and she begs Lea and the others not to go. It comes out that Ameiko’s adventuring days came to a close when nearly all of her party were killed by ogres, vile cannibals who delight in torture and suffering. She warns that they are big, strong, fast, and more clever than they appear. Lea, however, insists that she’ll be fine, and with Iomedae’s blessing can overcome all evil.

The journey to Turtleback Ferry will take some preparations, and the Rune Wardens decide to deal with some other loose ends first, such as investigating the rumored Isandari encampment in the Mushfens.

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Before Dawn
The Skinsaw Murders Interlude

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

Moving with divinely-endowed haste, Zavian heads north to meet up with Constable Wallas at the Inn of the Golden Shield, where he takes custody of Nualia. She’s happy to be away from Sandpoint, where she’d been on a work-release program carrying out Zavian’s Abadarian bookkeeping duties.

More recently, she had worked with the Sandpoint Watch to hunt down the surviving goblins from Thistletop, the ones that Shalelu had lured away on her decoy mission. Nualia acted as bait to draw the goblins out where the guards could kill them, an act that had drawn some grudging respect from a town that still feared and hated her.

As the two aasimar travel together, Zavian commends Nualia for helping the town, but acknowledges that bureaucratic work was not suited to her. She asks why he is having her join him in Magnimar and he explains that as an aasimar, she has an important destiny. He wants to help her discover what that is.

Noticing her shivering in the cold, he casts endure elements on her. Zavian admits that he is taking a great risk bringing her south, even though she had passed up previous opportunities to escape. He asks her to swear not to make any escape attempts or violations of the law during her stay in Magnimar.

“I know how you Abadarians take oaths and contracts seriously,” Nualia says with a sly smile. She holds up her red demon hand. “Pinky swear?”

After the vow is made, they travel in silence for a while, until Zavian pauses again. He confesses that he killed Tsuto, but did so in an improper summary execution. He admits that he did wrong, but is trying to do better. Though he also confesses that he killed Tsuto to remove his influence from her, but also out of jealously.

Nualia describes Tsuto as a lovestruck young fool who should have stayed away after things fell apart at Thistletop. That’s why she decided not to take up his escape offer. Besides, she shrugs, Zavian is prettier.

As they continue to travel, Zavian regails her with stories of his wild days as “King of Lowcleft,” which Nualia finds hard to believe. Zavian acknowledges that he has hidden depths.

As they approach the city, he also tells her about the creation of the vivicar and how he has noticed that it has traces of her personality, and signs of the divine goodness within her. He also notes that the vivicar seems drawn to Desna’s constellation. With a cocked eyebrow, Nualia questions him about what activities he got up to with this pliant copy of her . . .

Meanwhile, in Magnimar

Earlier that day, Astrid visits the Bazaar of Sails to ask around for information on Isandria. She is eventually pointed towards an Isandari merchant, Adalas Dorasaer. The bombastic elf was selling baked goods made from rare, fey-touched grains. Astrid purchases some lembas bread, and gets the man talking about the Hidden Kingdom.

She learns that Isandria is currently divided into two factions. The Stalwarts support the King’s policy of tolerating human settlement within the forest realm, while the Highborne want to drive the humans out and preserve elvish culture. She asks if giants are known to live in Isandria and is told that the Ranger Guard would fight off any such incursions.

She also got a brief, slightly condescending lesson in Elvish history. Ten thousand years ago, the Elven farseers sensed the coming disaster of the Earthfall and evacuated the vast majority of their population off of Golarian via an artifact called the Sovyrian Stone.

After the elves returned thousands of years later, they found their ancient lands had been overrun by humans and fouler things. The elves of the Mierani Forest to the north continue to grapple with the dangers that crept into their lands to this very day. But the illusion magics cast upon the Isandari capital of Niriath kept it hidden from looters and squatters, allowing the elves to return as if no time had passed.

After Astrid bids farewell to the the bread merchant Adalas, she climbs the great causeway up to the Summit region and visits the Founder’s Archive. There she buries herself in books on giants, finally coming across a tome that sketches out a valuable overview of the many different breeds of giant.

There are an abundance of the huge creatures in Varisia, mostly sticking to the Kodar Mountains, the Cinderlands, and other wild regions of the interior. She also learns that a giant with a boulder in its hand is bad news, as they are naturally gifted at hurling large rocks.

Sunday, 19 Neth, 4733

Early tin the predawn hours, Astrid meets up with Zavian, who has taken up Captain Kasadei’s offer to serve as bait in her murder investigation. With Zavian dressed as a Sarenrite cleric on a Dawnwalk procession, Astrid sets up an ambush in a nearby alley together with Nualia and the vivicar.

However, the assassin nonetheless gets the drop on Zavian. She is a red haired half-elf woman who probably isn’t related to Astrid. The killer uses a silence spell to mute his calls for help before knifing him in the back.

But the cleric proves more resilient than her normal prey, and soon the cultist attempts to flee the alleyway. The vivicar tackles her and Nualia beats her unconscious. Zavian arrives to chain her up, but before he can do anything her backup swoops down from the alley, a gargoyle Zavian had noticed earlier. The creature has a fiendish look to it and red-tinted skin. It knocks Zavian flat on his ass and swoops up with the unconscious half-elf woman, despite the vivicar’s attempts to hold on.

Zavian casts fly on Astrid, who chases after the monster and finally sees it land at a ruined temple deep in the Underbridge District. She returns to report her findings to Zavian and to Kasadei, who has her guards set a watch on the temple. Recognizing that his party of four is outmatched, Zavian heads back towards the Kaijitsu villa to rally the Rune Wardens.

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Marcus About Town
The Skinsaw Murders Interlude

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

At the Kaijitsu Villa, Marcus catches up with Duli and asks about her relationship with her estranged brother Brodi. The dwarven woman explains that she and her brother are from the Goddig family of the Wyrmbreaker Clan of Janderhoff, but as exiles they can no longer use those names.

A decade ago, her brother was accused of stealing the key to the Great Gate of Janderhoff, which connects the Dwarven Sky Citadel with the Underdark. Duli thought her brother was being railroaded and joined him in exile as a protest, only to realize he had stolen the key after all.

She describes the key as an adamantine object about the size of a mace, bearing the face of King Jander. Spells are woven into it to prevent scrying, which may be why her brother stole it. She suspects he was smuggling goods out of the Underdark, and has ties to the Korvosan underworld.

Duli has been striving for some way to restore her family’s honor, but she doesn’t have the fighting skill to go about the usual way—killing a shit ton of goblins, orcs, and giants—and she lacks the roguish talent to steal the key back. She’s been trying and failing to figure out a way to retrieve it. Marcus offers to help, though he admits his interest is driven in part by the presence of an adamantine magic item.

Their first stop is at Billivin’s Benevolent Balms and Effulgent Elixirs, the eclectic magic shop run by the absent-minded gnome Billiver Billivin. The gnome shopkeep forces Marcus to answer some riddles before suggesting that they think about how to acquire the key without magic, since it’s warded against spells. Marcus then asks about crafting a magic rod into a weapon. The gnome directs him to the Stone of Seers, Magnimar’s finest wizard’s academy.

At the school, all the professors are busy but a talking stone angel statue outside schedules an appointment with the headmaster. Marcus then moves on to the Founder’s Archive. He fails to impress the head librarian, but is nonetheless able to research the origins of the “snake lady” Xanesha.

His information suggests that she is of the lamia-kin, cursed beings who often take the form of comely women with the lower halves of lions. Xanesha is likely a more powerful form of such creatures, a so-called lamia matriarch. Lamias are spiteful and predatory, known to corrupt the innocent, defile sacred places, and lure in mortal lovers who they devour once they grow bored.

Lamias can breed with mortals, and it is likely that Xanesha’s “sister” is a genuine blood relation. Marcus’ research suggests that there is an unusually high prevalence of lamias in Varisia, with some scholars speculating they have ties to ancient Thassilon.

Marcus also researches the Janderhoff key and discovers a reference sketch of it. He has a plan to create a replica and startle Brodi into thinking it was stolen, in order to provoke the dwarf into rushing to check its hiding place. However, it will be a challenge to whip up a convincing replica.

Marcus then goes to meet with headmaster Leis Nivlandis at the Stone of Seers. The half-elf who believes that Marcus’ proposal of merging a magic rod into the shaft of a weapon is feasible, but faces challenges. He directs him to work with a halfling wizard, Ander, who has an interest in constructs.

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The Paladin Who Came in from the Cold
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 2

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

Lea and Ameiko return from the play, wondering how the paladin got caught up in this mess. Lea’s gown is soiled with blood and glitter. They decide not to do anything until the meeting with the “Princess” tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 Neth, 4733

Ameiko leads Lea down to the impressive Bazaar of Sails. Holding court at its center is Sabriyya Kalmeralm, the Princess of the Market. The Keleshite woman ensures that trade flows smoothly through the unpoliceable marketplace and hears every rumor that passes through. When Ameiko ran away to Magnimar as a teenager, Sabriyya took her under her wing and still thinks of her as a “niece.”

In recognition of that relationship, the Princess of the Markets offers to share what she knows with Lea. The paladin seeks information on who is after her. Sabriyya explains that there is a “war party” in Magnimar that wants to attack Korvosa before the rival city grows too strong to challenge. She suspects that Lady Leroung, one of the most vocal members of this faction, hoped that kidnapping a princess of Korvosa could force a conflict. Sabriyya, like the Lord-Mayor, believes that such a war would be disastrous for both cities.

Sabriyya also tells Lea that she is being watched by the Rushlight Society, a bandits guild that is almost certainly being funded out of Korvosa. Lea avoids sharing her suspicions about the actress Mira Ortani.

After the audience with the Princess of the Market, Lea and Ameiko return to the Kaijitsu villa. Ameiko gets to work preparing lunch for them and the servants and laborers restoring the place. Shalelu checks in with the young paladin, who is unsure whether she should simply leave Magnimar or stay indoors the entire time to avoid accidentally provoking a conflict.

Lea asks Ameiko for advice and the bard says that she should play to her strengths: confront problems head on, instead of trying to play someone else’s intrigue game.

With that in mind, Lea decides to see Mira. She brings Ameiko, while Shalelu stealthily tails them to keep an eye out for trouble. They are able to meet up with Mira in her dressing room. But once the paladin reveals that she recognizes Mira from the rooftop encounter at the Jester and Cask, the redheaded actress asks to speak with Lea alone.

Once Ameiko has stepped out of the room, Mira acknowledges that it was her on the rooftop and that she serves Korvosan interests. She also admits that Mira isn’t her real name. Lea asks if she works for her father King Aquilos, but Mira says that she is a member of “a certain Society” instead. She admits to keeping an eye on Lea and Amelia so that they don’t get caught up in the political standoff between the two cities.

Lea asks what she should do and Mira suggests that she keep her head down, avoid confronting Lady Leroung and avoid the Lord-Mayor’s celebratory feast. That will allow Mira and her agents to clean up the situation and avoid any further escalation. Her orders are to weaken Magnimar, not to start a war.

Lea says that she will of course arrest any bandits she encounters, but won’t hunt down the Rushlight Society. Mira promises to keep her paths clear. She also provides some directions on what areas of the Mushfens to avoid. Lea also informs her that Zavian suspects a connection between the Rushlight Society and Korosa.

Mira believes that as long as they can maintain plausible deniability, they will be okay. Besides, it’s not as if Magnimar’s hands are clean. She accuses Magnimar of fomenting unrest among the Varisians in Korvosa and cites Sabriyya Kalmeralm as playing the same role here that Lady Kyra Loranth plays for Korvosa.

Lea asks about news from the city. She learns that giant activity in the Mindspin Mountains has tied down the Hellknights, while the Korvosan Army has been redeployed to the borders. The Shoanti are distracted by the giants and won’t join an attack during the winter, so it’s not the first step for an invasion. However, King Aquilos has been seen in public less and less, and the word “Thassilon” has been heard with growing frequency in Castle Korvosa.

After giving the flirty redhead a farewell hug, Lea rejoins Ameiko. She asks her girlfriend to attend the Lord-Mayor’s feast in her stead—but then inquires about the possibility of attending the feast in disguise, which immediately piques Ameiko’s interest.

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The Golden Bolt
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 10

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

The Rune Wardens regroup at the Kaijitsu Villa, where Zavian brings them up to speed on his efforts to track Xanesha. They dispatch Ash to keep watch on the Jester and Cask Inn where she is staying, while they grab a quick lunch at a place called The Hungry Wench.

Though Marcus and Zavian are weary from the morning’s fight, the adventurers decide to confront the monster now before she has a chance to flee the city. They march down to the Jester and Cask, where they note it only has one entrance.

Stepping inside, they introduce themselves to the owner as deputies searching for a suspect. Lea also keeps her eyes out for the halfling Elirie, who hired her attempted kidnappers here.

Zavian questions the owner about the guest in the attached tower and learns that she has rented the tower for several years under the name Madame X. She is absent for long periods of time, but will periodically return with a gentleman caller. Madame X is in the tower at this moment. The owner also tells them that there are two access points to the tower, one on the ground floor and one upstairs.

Lea finally spies a halfling woman in a shadowy corner. The paladin confronts her and confirms that she is the Elirie that hired the bounty hunters who tried to kidnap Lea. Elirie says that her client simply wanted to meet with Lea or Amelia. The halfling claims to be acting as a simple broker on behalf of a client, whose identity she can’t disclose without hurting her reputation.

Lea senses that Elirie is no disinterested freelancer and is loyally trying to protect whoever she is working for. The paladin asks why Elirie would be involved in actions against her, since her family are known to be friends to the small folk. The halfling woman denounces Korvosa as a “bully” and notes that Lea is marching around like she owns the place with an earthbreaker on her shoulder. Elirie claims that she is unarmed, like a civilized person, and raises her hands.

As she does so, she swigs a potion bottle hidden in her left hand. Lea makes no move to interrupt her as the halfling turns invisible. Her footsteps patter up the side of the wall to the ceiling, where her giant gecko was waiting amid the rafters. With its invisible rider, the lizard charges across the roof to the stairwell and up to the second floor.

All hell breaks loose at this point. The Rune Wardens are fearful that Elirie will warn Xanesha, while the rest of the tavern panics as if this were a police raid. Astrid notes that one woman at the bar doesn’t panic with the rest, but doesn’t have time to press the case. Lea and Marcus run up after the stairs chasing the gecko, while Amelia, Zavian, and the vivicar go to the ground floor entrance to the tower.

Upstairs, Lea and Marcus realize that the invisible halfling and her gecko have burst out a window onto the roof across the alley. Her escape is interrupted, however, by the arrival of a red haired woman it a wide-brimmed hat with a scarf wrapped around her face. She dispels Elirie’s invisibility and trips her gecko with a twirl of her whip before tipping her hat at Lea.

Down below, Zavian unlocks the tower door and enters only to be fired on by an archer perched on the stairs, a plain faced human man. He retreats up the stairs as Amelia and the vivicar advance.

Upstairs, the red haired woman tips her hat at Lea and the paladin nods back before moving up to try battering down the upstairs door. Ultimately it is Astrid who hacks through it. The archer turns to fire on her before retreating into the shadows.

The party presses on into the tower from the second floor entry and up from below. Zavian is attacked by Tsuto, who emerges from the shadows. The half-elf monk then retreats upstairs, where Xanesha guards the entry with her spear. Meanwhile, Amelia is ambushed on the staircase by the unperturbed woman from the tavern. Like the archer, she is a faceless stalker.

Zavian leads the way up to the top floor of the tower. He confronts Tsuto, mocking him for the fact that Nualia ignored the half-elf’s escape attempt to stick with the aasimar cleric instead. Tsuto accuses Zavian of betraying their agreement in order to poison Nualia against him.

Lea, meanwhile, focuses her fury on Xanesha, hammering her with a blazing earthbreaker. The snakewoman weathers the devastating blows and then charges forward to shove Lea off the tower balcony, which creaks worryingly under her tremendous weight. The paladin manages to seize hold of the balcony railing.

Amelia emerges from below, surveys the scene, and shivs the wounded Xanesha in the back with her rapier. The monstress topples forward and the balcony collapses under the weight. Amelia casts feather fall on Lea, so that the paladin drifts gently to the ground.

Upstairs, Zavian paralyzes Tsuto with hold person. He sentences the half-elf to death and commands the Nualia vivicar to drive the golden bolt into the man’s heart. But the construct refuses to obey, and Zavian is forced to take the bolt from her and kill Tsuto himself.

As the half-elf’s body crumples to the floor, the adventurers remember that Zavian had promised Tsuto’s father Justice Ironbriar that they would spare the kid. Zavian realizes he may have gone too far.

Searching Xanesha’s body, the adventurers discover that, like Nualia, she wore a Sihedron medallion around her neck. Amelia won’t touch the thing, so Zavian claims it as his own.

The adventurers return to the Kaijitsu villa to break the news to Ameiko, who is saddened that her brother was killed. She tells Zavian that he’s not welcome in her home. Marcus follows Zavian out. The cleric heads to the Hells, the prison beneath the Pediment Building, to deliver the golden bolt to Justice Ironbriar. Zavian promises to continue his investigation of the Rushlight Society and defend Magnimar’s interests.

The party then returns to Captain Acacia Urania to report on the defeat of Xanesha, the leader of the Skinsaw murder cult. Acacia commends them on their efforts and lets them know that the Lord-Mayor is also grateful for their work. he has invited them to a feast in two days time at his palace in Defiant’s Garden. The captain also asks them to turn in their badges now that the investigation is over.

The adventurers haven’t traveled far from the Arvensoar before they are approached by Captain Kasadei of the Magnimarian Guard. She explains that the Star Killer affair had overshadowed another string of murders in the Underbridge. Someone has been murdering followers of Sarenrae while they perform a ritual dawnwalk, stabbing them from behind and cutting out their hearts. The victims never saw the killer, but they did glimpse a symbol on the dagger: a curved white feather dipping into a pool of blood. Zavian and Lea recognize that as the unholy symbol of Shax, the demon lord of lies and murder.

Kasadei says that Guard has a plan to lure the killer into an ambush, but they need someone to play bait. Zavian volunteers to assist, since he should be able to disguise himself as a Sarenrite priest, but he will need time to prepare.

Zavian also informs Lea of Justice Ironbriar’s suspicions that Korvosa is supporting the bandit guild known as the Rushlight Society. Lea insists that her father couldn’t be involved.

Marcus works with Zavian to find a buyer for his aberrant armor. They learn that a wealthy dwarf named Kunarv is interested in collecting planar artifacts. Kunarv’s townhouse is decorated with all manor of strange arms, armor, and artwork bearing unmistakable marks of the plane of fire, the plane of shadow, and more, yet Marcus notes that none seem to be touched by the Far Realm.

Kurnarv, dressed in flowing red robes with a gold medallion hanging down onto his bare chest, is intrigued by the armor, but cautious. Marcus works to sell him on it. Finally, the dwarf lays a hand on it and is taken hold with a desire to possess it. He immediately agrees to Marcus’ price of 8,000gp and sends his earth elemental to fetch the payment. The elemental melds into the stone floor and emerges moments later, disgorging a chest from which Kunarv retrieves the gold. The adventurers promise to see him if they come across any other planar finds.

That evening, Lea, Ameiko, Astrid, Amelia, and Shalelu dress in their finest gowns and head out to the Triodea to see The Inconstant Nymph. The actress Mira got them box seats with a great view of the theater.

The play is apparently one that has been performed regularly at the Triodea for many years, and some have come to view it as a hackneyed old chestnut, while others insist it’s a classic. The story is set in the Verduran Forest on the border between Taldor and Andoren. It involves an elaborate love triangle featuring this nymph, Pareia, who is being wooed by a Taldane prince, a dwarven warlord, and a young merchant’s son. The nymph can’t make up her mind between their offers, as the tensions between the suitors ramp up dramatically over the course of the play.

The lead male role is played by Kassiel, the resident bard, while Mira plays the nymph. There are substantial song and dance elements, which both leads perform admirably. The sets are magnificent and the costumes exquisite. There is a really convincing illusion of a centaur at one point. There are also some rather dated jokes about halfling servants, which irks Lea.

During intermission, Lea slowly realizes that the couple in the booth next door, and old noblewoman and her son, are members of the exiled Leroung family from Korvosa. The Leroungs are giving her some side eye, but seem surprised to see her there.

Lea also spots a halfling skulking in the scaffolding above the audience, who seems to be positioning herself to snipe at the box seats. It is Elirie, the kidnappers’ employer. When Lea informs Ameiko, the latter gets up onto the railing and calls out the halfling, telling her to stop threatening her girlfriend.

After a visit from the theater staff, the play resumes. But as it building towards a climactic point, Lea spots Elirie again. This time the halfling is creeping up behind Lady Leroung with a dagger in her hand, moving as if in a daze. Lea vaults across into the Leroung’s box, but isn’t able to stop Elirie before she cuts the old woman with her dagger. Then Lea and Shalelu wrestle the halfling to the ground.

The interruption brings the play to a halt, and Mira makes her way up to the box seats. Lady Leroung reveals that Elirie is a trusted servant and assumes that someone bewitched the halfling into attacking her. Lea wants to keep Elirie prisoner until the guards show up, but Lady Leroung is insisting that isn’t necessary.

Lea observes Mira as she suggests that Lady Leroung go home and leave Elirie to the guards. The actress dips her head at Lea, in just the same fashion as the redhead on the roof did hours ago.

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Zavian Alone
The Skinsaw Murders Interlude

Toilday, 14 Neth – Fireday, 17 Neth, 4733

With his new ring of sustenance allowing him to sleep for only two hours in order to refresh himself, Zavian finds himself frequently alone in the early hours of the morning. He quickly notices that late at night, the Nualia vivicar will step out onto the balcony of his room at the King and Axe in order to gaze up at the stars. She points at a particular constellation, which he explains is associated with the goddess Desna.

Zavian also finds himself being drawn out to the balcony every morning as the rosy fingers of dawn begin to creep over the eastern horizon. He feels an impulse to walk the streets and pray. He tells the Nualia vivicar that he has always been drawn to the warmth and light of the sun and the new day each dawn heralds.

Zavian takes to talking to her when they are alone, sharing personal stories. He tells a story he’d heard of a solar who committed ritual suicide to spread its celestial essence among Magnimar, which he suspects is his origin.

Continuing to interact with the construct, Zavian recognizes flashes of Nualia’s personality in the vivicar, including her temper but also her curiosity. He is impressed with the work he and Nualia accomplished in crafting the creature.

Starday, 18 Neth, 4733

Having cast locate object on the mask worn by Xanesha, Zavian carefully tracks her as she flees invisible through the streets of the Underbridge district. The cleric tries to hang back far enough not to be noticed and wraps his Star Cloak around himself as a disguise. But he cannot be too distant, lest she slip out of the spell’s range.

He follows Xanesha through crowded streets and over fences, pressing past a rough and tumble street wizards’ duel celebrating Evoking Day. The monstress stops suddenly and the cleric creeps close, perhaps too close, thinking she had gone to ground. Instead, she was merely being beset by a vicious swarm of dire rats.

Once free of them, Xanesha continues on to the Jester and Cask, an impressive inn and tavern. Thanks to his spell, Zavian senses that she has made her way to the upper floor of the inn’s adjoining tower. But the cleric features that his pursuit was detected.

Well aware that he cannot confront her alone, Zavian begins retracing his steps back to the rest of the party. A young lad come running by, shouting that the Shadow Clock had collapsed. It appears that half the denizens of Underbridge had been wagering on when the decrepit tower would topple.

As coins change hands, Zavian strides towards the settling cloud of dust where his friends are waiting.

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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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The Seven's Sawmill
The Skinsaw Murders, Part 8

Moonday, 13 Neth, 4733

Having survived an ambush, Lea cleans up and then helps Ameiko continue fixing up the Kaijitsu villa. By the time the rest of the party shows up, their efforts have begun to devolve into a soapy sponge fight.

Zavian and Marcus decipher the hidden messages in the fake deeds to the Blue Bunyip. The more recent of the two documents, found at the Foxglove Manor—the Misgivings—includes an alert to pass on word about Lea and Amelia, but to otherwise leave them alone. The older message, hidden in the Foxglove townhouse, details a dead drop outside the Blue Bunyip, as well as instructions on how to meet up with someone called Miior in the Mushfens.

Lea, Amelia and Astrid go to investigate the dead drop. It’s located under a waste crate in a narrow alley behind the tavern. Amelia checks it for traps, and then Lea reaches down to pull it out, setting off the trap. Amelia is hit with a poisoned dart, but makes use of antitoxin.

Lea inspects the dead drop, finding a collection of scrolls but up with different colored ribbons. They scoop up the scrolls just before Brodi emerges from the Bunyip’s back door. Astrid ducks into the shadows, while Lea sweeps Amelia up in a kiss to hide the half-elf’s face. They pose as bubbly teenage lovers Aware that she is the only one who hasn’t met the dwarf, Lea does the talking, pretending to be a love struck teenager looking for a quiet place to make out with her girlfriend. She’s compelling enough that the dwarf tells them to get a room (and suggests the Blue Bunyip).

Lea, Amelia, and (stealthily) Astrid retreat from the alley. Lea makes Amelia promise never to tell Ameiko about this incident. They hear Brodi suddenly shout in anger and quickly make themselves scarce.

On their way back to the Kaijitsu villa, they pass by a display of unusual creatures from the Lord-Mayor’s Menagerie. The beasts include a peryton from the Kodar Mountains, which looks like a cross between a deer, a wolf, and a vulture. Amelia thinks it’s cute, but the other two women are grossed out.

After returning to the Kaijitsu villa, the ladies turn the dead drop scrolls over to Zavian for inspection. Meanwhile, Lea and Amelia go shopping with Ameiko, Astrid, and Shalelu. Amelia and Astrid pressure Lea in buying expensive clothes. Shalelu and Astrid commiserate about the overwhelming nature of the big city. They also discuss the Isandari, who Shalelu describes as snooty and standoffish even by elven standards.

With the girls out shopping for clothes and Marcus off to buy spells, Zavian stays at the villa to inspect the scrolls using the cipher for the deed. They are reports from informants for the Rushlight Society, focused mostly on merchant traffic and security movements, but also reporting on sightings of Lea and Amelia.

Once the party regroups at the villa, Marcus suggests they visit a new restaurant he saw. As they travel through the city streets, however, they spy the peryton flapping loose over the city streets while guards and the beastmaster chase ineffectually after it. Lea casually tosses a pebble at the peryton and manages to bounce the rock off its antlers.

The creature whirls around and gives her the evil eye before flying off. Lea feels a strange sensation and realizes that the peryton has stolen her shadow, marking her as prey. The furious paladin gives chase, letting nothing get in her way. She dodges past a spooked horse and charging through a manure spill. Scooping some shit off her armor and tosses it in the peryton’s eyes, causing it to blindly crash into a brick wall.

Ameiko soothes the creature with a song long enough for Lea and Shalelu to bind it up. Arriving a few minutes later, the beastmaster thanks them and is ultimately persuaded to pay Lea a 200gp reward for catching “Vincent.” He forces the peryton to release Lea’s shadow and apologize to her.

After Ameiko cleans Lea up with prestidigitation, Marcus leads them to the newly opened restaurant the Cursed Sword. The stone building has a martial theme, structured like a barracks mess hall with damaged weapons and armor hanging from the walls.

There, the party encounters the mercenary captain Viorian Dekanti. Lea and Zavian confront her about Tsuto, the prisoner she’d escorted to Magnimar who seems to be out on the loose. Viorian insists she handed him over to Justice Ironbriar’s people, and seems to be telling the truth. She demands that they retract this insult to her character, and offers her company’s assistance in catching or killing the fugitive. Lea offers to cover Viorian’s dinner in recompense for the insult, which the mercenary heartily takes advantage of. “More wine!”

Viorian also asks about Astrid’s sword, as she likes collecting them. Astrid learns that Viorian encountered Eldrin and his elven rangers a couple months ago. The mercenary managed to discover the location of their camp in the Mushfens. She also directs Amelia to the smith who made her armor, after Marcus determines that it is the genuine article under all the golden gilding.

Tired from their escapades at the Foxglove townhouse and elsewhere, the party takes an early rest, especially so that Zavian could recover and replenish his divine energies.

Toilday, 14 Neth, 4733

A few hours after midnight, the party sets out to investigate the Seven’s Sawmill, an impressive wooden structure along the shore of Kyvet Isle in the southern part of the city. Marcus spiderclimbs up the side of the building and finds a mysterious elf in a red robe fussing about in an office on the fourth floor. Marcus doesn’t recognize the elf, but notes that he has a family resemblance to Tsuto. After setting the Nualia vivicar to guard the exit to the undermill, the rest of the party bashes down the door in a police raid.

Finding no one downstairs, they head up to the second level where they find mill workers inspecting piles of finished lumber project. Zavian and Lea demand to see the mill’s records. The mill workers seem friendly, but they start to move to flank the party. Lea and Astrid challenge them, and a fight breaks out as the workers produce large war razors from up their sleeves.

On the fourth floor, the elf hears the sound of the door being bashed open. He checks out the window, but doesn’t see Marcus, and then leaves the room. Marcus bashes open the window, which startles some ravens roosted somewhere overhead. He calls his familiar Ash up to question them. Ash says that they are messenger ravens who carry information to the “snake lady tower.” Marcus tells Ash to ask them about the tower’s location and then follows after the elf.

On the second floor, the mill workers lay into the party, but though their razors are fearfully sharp they have trouble getting through Lea, Zavian, and Astrid’s armor. Amelia hangs back and hurls glitterdust, blinding one of the attackers.

Outside of the elf’s office, the fourth floor is a workshop littered with sawdust. Seeing no one there, Marcus heads downstairs to the third floor. This chamber features two chutes for logs to be drawn up from below and two other chutes leading to the saw blades.

In the shadowy far corner of the room, Marcus spies a human man in a red robe fumbling to pull on a strange mask showing a deformed face with a single bulbous eye. He is armed with a war razor. Marcus holds up his Magnimar City Watch badge and tells man to drop his weapons and surrender. When the man fails to comply, Marcus inflicts blindness on him.

But the lone cultist is not so alone after all. Two more cultists emerge from the shadows by the door to try to seize hold of the wizard, but he fights them off. Another cultist reveals himself from across the room and fires a hand crossbow at Marcus, but the bolt is deflected by the half-elf’s shield spell.

Finally, the elf himself reappears, wearing a different mask that looks as if it is made from a single strip of skin bound together in a spiral shape. He casts a spell and Marcus feels his muscles tightening with paralysis, but flexes his limbs and shakes it off.

“All the important people are up here!” Marcus calls out.

On the second floor, Astrid and Lea bring down three of the mill workers. A fourth one makes a break for the stairs but is caught with a hold person spell from Zavian. The blind worker, meanwhile charges at Lea but runs into a pile of lumber and falls over. While the others rush upstairs, Lea lingers to knock the man unconscious.

Upstairs, the cultists continue to have difficulty penetrating the party’s armor and then attempt to fade back into the shadows. Amelia uses more glitterdust to try to expose them, in the process blinding a cultist and the elf. The Rune Wardens advance into the room, where Zavian is ambushed by two more hidden cultists. The blinded cultist tries to force Astrid into the saw blade chute.

The elf, meanwhile, frees himself of the blindness effect and falls back towards the cultist that was blinded by Marcus. Amelia hits him with more glitterdust, but doesn’t blind him again.

One of the cultists tries to command Astrid to drop her weapons, but she resists his compulsion. Lea arrives and bull rushes another cultist into the saw blade chute, but the masked man braces himself inside the chute above the spinning blades. Zavian tries to kick him in, but the man seizes hold of Zavian’s boot. The boot comes off and the man falls in, leaving the aasimar with a bare foot.

Another wave of cultists comes up from below, attacking Amelia. She casts grease and Lea rushes to her aid. Zavian, meanwhile, races downstairs before his hold person spell wears off on the mill worker below.

Marcus and Astrid close in on the elf, who proves to be skilled with his gleaming short sword and is protected by so many layers of magic he seems nearly impossible to hit. He babbles to Marcus: “I know why you’re here! You’ll not take her from me! She is mine, and you are merely food for Father Skinsaw!”

The remaining blind cultist attempts to assist, but can’’t hit a damn thing. The elf starts lecturing him. “Once we’ve slain these intruders, you are out of the cult, Arthur!”

“Hey, man, I’m blind here,” Arthur protests, taking another swing.

“Bit more to your left,” Marcus says helpfully, moving to Arthur’s right.

“Thanks, man!”

Over by the stairs, Lea strikes down one of the two cultists. Amelia warns her to get out of the grease spell, then ignites the oil on the floor. The second cultist catches fire and Amelia finishes him off.

Downstairs, Zavian knocks out the mill worker who was caught in his hold person spell, but is attacked by another cultist. Lea goes to his assistance and together they bring down the zealot.

Unable to get through the elf’s magical armor, Marcus switches to magic missile, while Astrid looks for an opening. Finally, she seizes one and runs through the elf, leaving him bleeding on the floor. Arthur surrenders, while Lea hastily patches up the elf and the Rune wardens take stock of their victory.

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